SUGGESTED WAYS TO REACH OUT…
Many Landings volunteers ask the best way to attract both welcomers and returnees. Truly, there is no perfect way, but the observations and results of three parishes, who recently participated in a Landings publicity grant, offer very helpful ideas. The geographical location, culture, size, and budget of the parish all impact your choice of ideas and practices; the ideas that follow will supplement those ideas provided in the Coordinator’s Guide.
When is the best time for a Landings program?
Leaders agree that although it is possible to start a Landings program anytime during the year, Advent and Lent are particularly appropriate liturgical seasons to begin. Grant evaluations indicated that the timing of Lent, bookended by the start of a new year and the promise of springtime, makes that season one when Landings organizers are able to get a more positive and effective response to their efforts.
- For the last two years the Archdiocese of Washington, DC has sponsored an archdiocesean-wide Landings workshop, attended by priest, deacons, and laity. Some parishes sent teams to learn about Landings. These workshops have resulted in many start-up programs.
- At Sacred Heart Catholic Church in LaPlata, MD the officiating priest at funerals issues a special welcome to all attendees who are not regular participants in the sacraments, suggests that they consider returning to active participation in the Church, and ask them to pick up a Landings flyer as they leave. This simple invitation – many returnees say no one ever asked them to return – has resulted in an entire Landings group session composed of “funeral returnees” in Fall 2014.
- At the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament in Washington, DC the pastor invites the Landings group and spouses to dinner in the rectory when the eight week program is completed. Frequently, the Fall session ends before Christmas and the Spring session ends before Easter; both are times for double celebration.
- In Singapore at the Church of the Holy Spirit Parish, a weekend before the beginning of a Landings session, former Landings participants testify from the pulpit about the incredible experience and opportunity that they derived from participating in Landings. Also, a reserved room every Monday night serves as an invitation for spiritual and community development, even if there is no Landings session occurring. This parish has had more than 100 Catholics return last year and has founded a new Landings program that will begin September 8, 2014 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Singapore.
- At St. Jude the Apostle parish in Jacksonville, Arkansas, Landings leaders placed ads in regional newspapers, handed out flyers to parishioners, and posted flyers in local businesses. They made and handed out business cards and pew cards, and they posted banners at local businesses. One large banner posted at a local traffic intersection grabbed the attention of drivers and riders. Having a returnee speak about his/her Landings’ experience from the pulpit provided a convincing message.
- The Paulist Center, a parish in downtown Boston, used social media as a base for their Lenten Outreach Campaign, designed both to inspire and encourage parish members to invite friends and family and to reach disaffected Catholics in the greater Boston Area, inviting them back to the Church through Facebook posts, news articles and short videos. The use of pew cards, getting a parishioner to write an article in a major Catholic newspaper, and writing an article for a local secular newspaper bolstered their evangelization efforts. The Paulist Center recommends having a creative and diverse approach to advertising, and having the material available in different sources such as social media, print, and in the pews. They also recommend incorporating individual and in-person outreach with social media.
- St. Cyril of Alexandria Parish in Tucson, Arizona advertised in both English and Spanish local newspapers and placed a banner in front of the church. The weekly bulletin contained a special insert advertising the Landings program and printed invitations in English and Spanish invited people to participate in Landings.
In summary, the best answer to the question is to maximize the utilization of your resources within your parish: people, places, programs, and make it work for you. It may be different strokes for different folks, but as one of most successful leaders has pointed out, “Persistence pays!”