Monday, October 26, 2015
Growing New Quakers; Re-energizing Old Ones
Nearly all spiritual denominations wrestle with the questions of gaining and retaining followers. Our small group, like many, must deal with attrition due to personality or theology conflicts, health issues, or simply people moving away.
What about us Quakers? How do we encourage others to embrace, or simply sample, our way of worshiping? One idea is have Quaker Meeting occasionally at a college or university, with the idea of attracting students. Perhaps a pithy ‘elevator’ speech on Quakerism, initiating a discussion about living simply or speaking about our own inward spiritual journey would intrigue someone enough to find out more about Quakers. Another aspect of outreach would be making more use of social media, such as Facebook or press releases of our activities in the community.
What about those who do come to our Meeting? How do we nurture and encourage them spiritually? One way to do this might be to periodically have a potluck lunch after Meeting for Worship – once a month, perhaps? Words, ideas, and fellowship often flow more easily over food. Our Meeting has regular discussions and readings about Quaker individuals whose lives have had an impact. We discuss what those Quakers taught and wrote. We also have out-of-Meeting gatherings such as book discussions, potlucks, and Bible study.
The activities above are crucial, though perhaps carrying friendships outside of Meeting events and into the social realm are even more important. How often do we invite a new attender out to lunch or coffee? These invitations are powerful gestures to those seeking a spiritual home and show a genuine interest in the seeker as a person worth knowing more deeply, not just as a ‘recruit’.
Early Quakers were often good at sensing the spiritual condition of those they encountered and speaking to that condition. Can contemporary Quakers hone this skill? A life spiritually lived can be a beautiful statement of our beliefs on its own. Is this enough? In many instances, Quakers today, tend to be introverts, shying away from discussing their faith and beliefs unless asked directly.
There is one important point to remember. Sometimes, people are impacted by Friends outreach and testimony in ways we’ll never know, in times and places we are not privileged to see.
Susan W, Charleston Friends Meeting
(This post focuses on ideas gleaned from a discussion of “Outreach” in Charleston Friends Meeting.)