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?
  • Neen

    Peo­ple are seek­ing Christ in a rev­er­ent set­ting. I have seen vis­i­tors come and go because they sense how real­ly quirky and tight knit the meet­ing is. The felt sense is more akin to a per­son­al club­house than the wel­com­ing arm of Christ. 

  • Emi­ly

    I have seen an insid­er men­tal­i­ty, so much so that there is not even cof­fee brew­ing for vis­i­tors. They have to drink what the oth­er mem­bers like.