It’s summertime and from the inner city, to the suburban parishes and all the way into the countryside, it’s FESTIVAL TIME! This includes community square events, parish carnivals, county fairs and more… You don’t want to miss this opportunity to evangelize with those in the community; to build trusting relationships, answer questions of the curious about faith in Jesus Christ and deepen the faith of those who stop by. To aid in building relationships, here are some effective practices shared by some parish communities around the Diocese of Cleveland:
Whether it’s out in the open, under an overhang or in a tent, create an inviting presence as your Church welcoming area.
Find compassionate volunteers who understand their role is to build trusting relationships and are willing to create positive relationships with those who stop by who belong to the church and especially to those who do not. Volunteers who are willing to listen first and then share either their own personal story about how faith in Jesus Christ has influenced their life or are willing to answer a question for someone who is either just curious or seeking faith.
Please note: Volunteers don’t need to know all the answers someone might ask, so having at least one person who has a greater knowledge or education in the faith, such as a lay ecclesial minister, Deacon or Priest on board or nearby always helps. If that isn’t possible, have a piece of paper available to write down their name, number or e-mail and passing it on to someone who knows the answer and let them know someone will get back to them.
Here are some of the tangibles that could be used to enhance the possibility of people entering the area and interacting with the volunteers. (In parenthesis, included are the websites used to find some of these materials.)
Life Sized Pope Francis cut-out inviting people to “Take a Pic with the Pope” (amazon.com)
Create a “Free Enter to Win” Card to win an Outdoor Garden Statue (Ask your local religious goods store and in return put their name next to the stature. And be sure to include phone or e-mails on the free entry form so that you can add them to your database(s) to invite to future events.)
Create an “I would like to pray for…” cards to put in a Prayer Bucket or Fishbowl to place on the altar to have the community pray for after the event.
Votive Candles placed on a stand creates a prayer offering space; add a religious picture such as Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Guadalupe above or next to area. (rootcandles.com)
Rosaries as well as small booklets on how to pray the rosary both in adult and children versions are excellent giveaways for faith sharing. (Ask for donations from parishioners before the event or autom.com)
Offer a variety of brochures on church related questions and information on annulments. (http://www.pemdc.org/store/ and the diocesan Tribunal)
Faith related CD’s, DVD’s, Books or Booklets are also good ways to provide information to those who are seeking faith. (dynamiccatholic.org)
Children’s religious items such as pens, stuffed crosses, cross key chains, colorful beaded faith necklaces keep children happy and provide an early interest in faith. (orientaltrading.com)
Church decals, medals of saints and prayer cards are also good giveaway items. (autom.com).
Parish Information Sheets and Bulletins are good items to have as giveaways for people who may be interested in joining the faith or learning about the parish community.
Church Tours of about 15 minutes or less in length can be offered if the event is on parish grounds.
Be sure to include information about the parish’s upcoming events such as VBS, PSR or Parish, School or Adult Faith opportunities.
Use a standard Avery 5160 or 5161 label and create pages of labels. Be sure to put a label with your church name, address, phone number, e-mail and website address on each of the items you give away.
Bulletin article requesting donations 3 - 6 months before the event
This summer we are doing an evangelizing campaign to positive relationships with those in our surrounding community at our [name location]. We are presently seeking the following new or like new donations to give away to those who come to use in this space: rosaries, medals, prayer cards, votive candles, faith books, CD’s, DVD’s or children’s religious items. We are also welcoming sponsorship gifts of cash to use in purchasing items as well. If you can assist, please drop off your donation at [name space]. If you need more information contact: [Name, e-mail, phone number].
(Include picture of location in bulletin article if possible)
With just a small amount of space, requesting small donations from the parish community and finding some faith-filled volunteers, a welcoming presence can be created and used to help others come to faith and believe in Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church.
If you have additional effective evangelizing ideas for summer festival time, please comment below or let me know so they can be shared with others at firstname.lastname@example.org.