the past year, the Outreach Committee has tackled a number of issues
concerning the welcoming and integrating of newcomers. Our work,
which took its foundation from the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting’s
recommendations on outreach efforts, focuses not only on how to
expand the view of Downingtown Friends Meeting, making it seem
larger and more vibrant in both the general Quaker community and the
greater Downingtown community, but also on how to increase the sense
of welcoming, encouragement, and explanation for those “friends” who
walk through our Meeting House doors for the first time.
New Meeting Brochure
To aid in this, we completely redid the welcome brochure that we had
created last year, developing an eye-catching bi-fold on the theme
of "Look into our Meeting" that gives
guests who come to Meeting for the first time information about our
Meeting. We have found that the brochure helps keep the Meeting in
newcomers’ minds. To make our brochure easily accessible, One of our
committee members constructed new racks for both the Meeting House
vestibule and the Schoolhouse, and also made an all-weather brochure
box with a Plexiglas cover so that visitors can obtain a brochure if
no one else is around.
The brochure, as well, contains information on how to find
information about Downingtown Friends Meeting through our Web site
which has become one of our Meeting’s most innovative outreach
tools. To further make visitors feel at home, we’ve put up welcome
signs on the main bulletin boards in our Schoolhouse.
In addition, another committee member registered our Meeting on
Google’s Local Search to make it easier for people to find us using
their computers and smart phones. Local Search provides a map,
photos, and even a place for people to leave reviews—an important
feature in today’s social networking world. During a recent month
189 people visited our Google listing and 107 of them went on to
view our Web site. According to the keywords that they used, all
were new visitors.
The Quaker Way Booth
The Outreach Committee also now oversees The Quaker Way booth at our
annual Friends Fall Festival. This insures that this vehicle for
bringing our community to the attention of others does not fall
short. We focused our efforts during last year’s Friends Fall
Festival on catching the eye of quickly moving visitors, and then
engaging them when they approached us. We did this by displaying a
slideshow of photos of people and activities from Meeting on our T.V.
using a DVD. We also positioned the tables and displays on the
Meeting House porch, so they could best be viewed by visitors as
they entered or left the building, providing shelter from the
Members of the Outreach Committee greeted visitors and offered them
our informational brochures and handouts, as well as offered
peace-sign hand stamps to kids. Our exhibit, completely redesigned
for a more bold graphic look with new photographs and information,
carried over the theme of our Web site and showed a family
worshiping together at Meeting, as well as photographs of Meeting
We directed those inquirers wanting information about the Meeting
House, itself, and its history to two long-time members of our
Meeting, who were graciously on hand throughout the Festival.
On September 20, 2009, the Outreach Committee held its first Welcome
Social at the rise of Meeting. We invited anyone who had started
coming to Meeting within the last two years. Not only did a good
number of newcomers attend, but many people from Meeting joined us
as well. After helping themselves to refreshments, everyone sat in a
circle and introduced themselves. All in all, it was a very
successful event, one that we plan to hold again sometime this year.
Good Neighbor Day
We participated in the annual Good Neighbor Day celebration, held in
Downingtown’s Kerr Park, on July 3, 2010. Our display, alongside
other church, non-profit, and service organization booths, consisted
of the Quaker Way fold out from Friends Fall Festival. To welcome
visitors, we gave out free cups of lemonade and handed out brochures
with information about Downingtown Friends Meeting.
Members of the committee staffed the booth from 8 A.M. to 5:30 P.M.
with help from other members and attenders. Many passersby took away
our new brochure about the Meeting, while a half a dozen or so
individuals/couples stopped by for serious and sustained discussion
about Downingtown Friends and Quakerism generally.
From the response we received, this event would appear to be a very
good venue in which to reach out to the larger community. We plan to
do it next year as well, with some slight changes.
Throughout the year, the Outreach Committee has had articles,
highlighting our Meeting’s activities, published in
PYM News, the
Daily Local News of West
Chester, and the Community News. This is an important promotional
tool that helps to get the word out about what our Meeting is doing
to the greater Downingtown community. We want everyone to know what
goes in the stone building behind the two huge oak trees along
Our ongoing effort is “Operation Welcome,” a program to make those
at Meeting more aware of the importance of welcoming newcomers and
visitors. A short presentation by another of our committee members
introduced our new Meeting brochure and briefly told what Outreach
is doing for Meeting.
The main presentation, held at one of our Opening Exercises and led
by yet another of our members, utilized roleplaying to help members
and attenders understand how to effectively welcome newcomers with
the goal of making everyone in Meeting a welcomer. Also, it’s
important to know why people do or do not come back, even if they’ve
received a warm welcome.
Presently, we track newcomers as best we can and keep a record of
them in an effort to integrate them into our Meeting community.
During the next year, we plan on developing ways to do this.
Integrating newcomers into our Meeting community is our most
Sept. 26, 2010
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