Special events are “special” because they touch four of the five aspects of Parish Advancement, namely, Fellowship, Revenue Management, Evangelization and Stewardship. Last week, we focused on Revenue Management, since special events generate revenue for the parish. This week, we look at Evangelization.
A special event needs to involve non-parishioners. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t touch four of the five elements of Parish Advancement. An event that has people of the parish working together, generates revenue, and has parishioners give of their time, talent and treasure to make the event happen is a fundraiser, since no funds come from outside the parish and doesn’t involve people from outside the parish.
Non-parishioners that come to a special event do because it appeals to them emotionally, or because someone from the parish has invited them to join them. If they enjoy being with others, and faith-sharing happens, an opportunity for evangelization is created.
Think of how the early Christians came to believe in Jesus. They heard about Him (which can be equated with Word of Mouth marketing), and were excited to see Him because they thought they might see a miracle. They were captivated when they heard Him speak, excited to find out more, and were supported by the community of believers. Notice that all these things have an emotional context to them. People were “moved” by the experience of others, and, when they encountered Jesus, they were excited, comforted, and some were even upset. All those adjectives describe emotions. It’s not a logical decision. Logic supports a decision, and, when one hears the Word over and over again, the logical contexts begin to connect with one another, and the logical becomes connected to the emotional. Connecting the emotional and logical aspects of the message to the physical actions of praying, serving and sacrificing creates an emergent principle which is centered at the heart. Not coincidentally, the heart is the center of one’s being. It connects with others to create community, which in turn connects with the heart of Jesus, as well as His mission and vision.
In this week’s look at the Burger Bash as a special event, we can see the opportunity for evangelization. Non-parishioners attend because it’s publicized in the community, and if they stay, they might become engaged in conversation with members of the parish. If they’re invited by parishioners, it gives them the opportunity to talk about what else is happening at the parish, and they may choose to attend another event – perhaps to hear a concert, or listen to a guest speaker. As more opportunities arise, they may become more interested in the differences between their faith and the Catholic faith, or their state of non-belief and what it means to be a believer, and be open to learning more. Engage emotionally, and it will lead to learning logically. Of course, the question is how do we get people to attend our events. To borrow and modify a popular phrase, “If you cook it…they will come.”
One of the most popular quotations attributed to St. Francis of Assisi is, “Preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words.” And you have to use words to invite someone. And yes, they must be invited. God can invite them through calling them, and we can invite them since we are charged to do the work of Christ as His followers here on earth.
Next week, we’ll look at how stewardship is also a part of a special event.