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 Outreach Committee

During 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.

The role of the Outreach Committee is to welcome people to Downingtown Friends Meeting. This includes brand new newcomers, of course, but also “frequent newcomers” who have attended for a few weeks or months and perhaps still need a guiding hand. We also seek to reach people in the general community who hardly know that Downingtown Friends Meeting exists, to raise awareness of what we have to offer and encourage them to come and see for themselves. Reaching these different constituencies requires different methods and approaches, and the Committee has worked throughout the 2017-18 financial year to reach out to ensure that each group feels welcomed.

Outreach to the General Community
We hosted a booth at Downingtown’s Good Neighbor Day on the Fourth of July. A handful of DFM members and attenders staffed the booth from 10am to 5pm, handing out flyers and lemonade and answering any questions about the Meeting and about Quakerism in general. We used our usual display, complete with our “You Might be a Quaker if” poster, and later used it again at Downingtown FallFest in September, where we greeted interested parties from 11 until 5.30. This was our second FallFest. At these events, we continue to use the banner we had made two years ago. It reads “Downingtown Quaker Meeting” to dispel any confusion that our previous sign (“Downingtown Friends Meeting”) apparently invited among passers-by.

Outreach also participated in the open house for the Downingtown area Interfaith Action group. Outreach joined other committees in giving a short presentation/explanation to assembled guests from other faith ministries in the area what exactly we do. This was a wonderful occasion.

Our website and Facebook page continue to be effective outreach tools for the general community. Our webmaster continues to update both our website and our Facebook Page.

We continue to ensure that the Meetinghouse and the box next to the Schoolhouse door are always well supplied with our brochure and our FAQ brochure.

We took out an advertisement in Friends Journal in Spring 2017 that continued into the 17-18 financial year. The ad gave our Meeting's contact information,, worship schedule, and our First Day School times and appears in the back of each monthly issue where similar information from other meetings around the country can be found. We did not renew the ad after July, but should possibly consider doing so again.

We made steps to host a Red Cross blood drive in the Schoolhouse in late August. The idea behind this is to promote interest in our Meeting from blood donors coming for that event.

The Quaker Way Booth
The Outreach Committee 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 TV 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 elements.

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 activities.

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.

Welcome Social
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.

Outreach to Brand-New Visitors
Outreach to brand-new newcomers, our second “constituency,” involves regularly checking the visitor’s log in the Meetinghouse and keeping records that we compile at our monthly committee meetings. Altogether, we noted about 37 first-time visitors (only 3 children) this year. The Committee has been pursuing an aggressive but gentle! approach in getting newcomers to sign the guestbook. We continue to have a “point person” in the back of the Meetinghouse every First Day at the rise of Meeting to answer any questions newcomers or “seasoned comers” may have about our Meeting and Quakerism generally.

Outreach to “Frequent Newcomers”
Keeping track of frequent newcomers—noting their presence or absence on a given Sunday and seeing to it that their questions are answered and their needs are met—constitutes one of the trickiest parts of our work. This helps us decide whether and when to forward names to the Google Group and Directory coordinators, as well as to the Pastoral Care Committee. During the 2017-18 FY, we forwarded the names of seven “frequent newcomers,” unfortunately no children, to Pastoral Care. Separately, we forwarded the email addresses of six newcomers to the Google Group administrator.

We had been publishing brief biographies of recent newcomers for the DFM newsletter. This year, fewer newcomers have resulted in a slowing down of this feature. Only one “bio” was published during the year. (A second was complete but the subject of the bio ceased coming to meeting.) We hope to increase this number next year.

We held our seventh annual Newcomers Coffee Social on a Sunday in March. Five new attenders participated despite the fact that we sent out 70+ email invitations. Long-term members/attenders also came to show support, making for about 20 people total. Outreach Committee members made/brought the food.

Outreach to DFM generally
Of course, outreach to these newcomers overlaps with outreach to our regular Meeting members and attenders. We periodically update Meeting generally about Outreach matters and occasionally make an announcement every few months at Opening Exercises reminding everyone that all of us at Meeting are, in effect, members of the Outreach Committee. Indeed, we held a skit at the March 15 Opening Exercises intended to remind Meeting generally of our collective responsibility in this area.

We hosted three “family game nights” in September, January and April as part of our initiative, begun in October 2015, to attract more families with kids to meeting. We netted about 15-16 people each time, with 4-6 children. We continue to think about the “families problem” in other ways. It's a difficult situation, and our efforts so far seem to have been in vain, as family attendance continues to dwindle.

We have revisited the nametag issue again—how to get people to get hold of them every First Day and so use them—and think we have come up with a solution: to have people keep them in their cars and put them on every week, returning them to their cars for the next week. We will be working on this.

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