We had a very nice clergy seminar the day before yesterday. We have one every year and the bishop usually picks one of the clergy to prepare a talk which eventually gives way to further discussion on not only the theme at hand but usually we end up talking about a whole wide range of topics. The speaker did an excellent job and I hope I’m not saying that with any favoritism since he’s my brother in law. The speaker was Prota Dragomir Tuba from the Akron parish and the topic assigned him was “Every Parish is a Mission – Reaching out to former Parishioners in the Parish – Bringing New People into the Church.”
Even though he gave a good talk he didn’t really address how to bring people to the church. Instead he pointed out the philosophy of, if I remember correctly I think it was car dealers. They spend 90% of their time with people who are serious about buying, 9% of the time with people who aren’t sure and 1% with people who have absolutely no interest. We do the opposite, he said. At times we ignore (or maybe even take for granted) those who come every Sunday, those who help out, in other words those we know we can count on and put all our focus on those who don’t come around. What’s more we try to figure out what it is that we’re doing wrong, what is it that we can be doing to attract them to the church. In fact, in our discussion which followed the talk there was some discussion about language, should there be more Serbian or English in the service? Naturally, this depends on the make up of the parish. But in the end it’s not about language or any other thing like that. It’s a question of whether or not the person has love for the church. As the bishop pointed out, You tell some in Serbian to come to church and they don’t come; you tell them in English and they still don’t come. Ours is to create such an environment in the parish, to work with those who come around and create a loving, peaceful community of faithful which will attract others.
He also made what I thought was a good point when he reflected on the praise we give to parishioners at our various banquets and such, who make large donations. At times (and it doesn’t always have to be the case) but more often than not those big donor don’t always come around that frequently. The question then is, apart from us thanking the person, is that really the kind of parishioner we want to praise and emulate?
I was hoping to make a more thorough write up about the talk and the interesting topics brought up but I’m afraid I’m out of time. Just some food for thought.