Outreach as Retention

From Cal­lid Keefe-Perry, a vlog entry on the appar­ent dis­crep­ancy between what Friends think they want to be doing (out­reach) ver­sus what they think makes for a healthy meet­ing (deep wor­ship), as indi­cated by a just-released sur­vey from Friends Gen­eral Con­fer­ence, the umbrella orga­ni­za­tion for many of North America’s Lib­eral Friends.


Cal­lid says:

there’s a dis­con­nect between deep wor­ship as a mark of health, and out­reach as the most impor­tant thing to do. We try as peo­ple to make things hap­pen that are beyond our con­trol. If we really attended to deep wor­ship, if we attended to root­ing our com­mu­nies in a sense of dis­ci­ple­ship and dis­ci­pline, then out­reach and care for com­mu­nity, and lead­ing by exam­ple would come from that. Those things are fruits; their root is liv­ing in the pres­ence, liv­ing in gospel order. I’m con­cerned that in the hus­tle and bus­tle of out­reach and mak­ing things work we might miss that still small voice. [Loose tran­script, lightly edited]

There is much we can do to pro­mote com­mu­nity aware­ness of Friends (aka “out­reach”), but I sus­pect the great­est effect of our efforts is internal–raising our own con­scious­ness about how to be vis­i­ble and wel­com­ing. Friends are always get­ting free pub­lic­ity (just this morn­ing I fin­ished Jef­frey Eugenides’s The Mar­riage Plot, whose final pages are prac­ti­cally an ad for our reli­gious soci­ety, and there’s the seeker-producing mill of the Belief-o-Matic Quiz). What if vis­i­bil­ity isn’t our biggest prob­lem? Callid’s post reminds me of some­thing that Robin Mohr said when I inter­viewed her “Eight Ques­tions on Con­ver­gent Friends” for Friends Jour­nal:

Though it may be dif­fer­ent in other places, San Fran­cisco always had peo­ple vis­it­ing; there was no short­age of new vis­i­tors. The key was get­ting them to come back… I don’t think the Con­ver­gent Friends move­ment is nec­es­sar­ily going to solve our out­reach issues, but it can absolutely change the reten­tion rate.

What if we thought of out­reach as a reten­tion issue? How would it relate to the “deep wor­ship” the survey-takers lifted up?