When I lived in Chicago, one of my friends got a job as a “Hospitality Ambassador” for an events company. Her job was to go to places like O’Hare Airport, Navy Pier, and the Sears Tower — basically places that it was likely for tourists to be — and promote the most current event the company was hosting: things like Oktoberfest, outdoor concerts, fireworks displays, and museum shows. All these events could easily be found online. There were numerous tourism and promotional sites that had community calendars to let locals know about what was going on in the city, but tourists had a hard time finding those.
When tourists would search online they tended to only find the big things like Broadway shows, celebrity-owned restaurants, and city-sponsored events, not the wide variety of less expensive — and often more interesting — things happening around the city. The idea was that the best way to make sure tourists knew what their options were was to send a live person to invite them.
The evangelical charity ministries in our parishes work the same way. The people who are going to know the most about them are the “locals”, or the regular parishioners. Those needing the support of the ministries will sometimes be a part of that group, but often will not. They will need help locating the support that your parish is offering. They will most frequently be offered this help by a real “hospitality ambassador,” though, you can also optimize your Google Business profile to help people find you online!
So how can we make sure each of our parishioners has the information they need to be hospitality ambassadors?
1. Communicate the work your ministries are doing! Make sure your bulletin is showcasing the different services your ministries are providing. Go further than just putting a ministry name and phone number on a directory: show pictures and tell a story. People won’t remember the phone number to a food pantry, but they will remember reading a short article about how your parish food pantry served 50 Thanksgiving dinner baskets! When parishioners hear these stories they will repeat them out in the community.
2. Involve the whole parish in your work. Parishioners will remember the story about the Thanksgiving baskets, and they’ll repeat that story, but if they also have a role in donating the food, assembling the baskets, or delivering them to those in need they will be even more likely to engage future clients or donors — without even having to be asked.
3. Make sure contact information and referral processes are clearly communicated. Information about the ministries that exist, who qualifies to receive support, and how to apply for support should be easily accessible, not just to those in need but to your parishioners as well. Think, “If a parishioner were to tell their co-worker about this ministry, would they know enough to actually connect their co-worker with the ministry?”
4. Father can speak from the pulpit. Nothing motivates a community like their pastor giving them a call to action! If your parish is offering a service relevant to weekly readings, your pastor can preach about its mission and encourage parishioners to get involved. Father can’t just tell the Lectionary what the readings are though, so help him out by suggesting weekends where you think the messages of the liturgy will correspond to the mission of your ministry! For example, the weekend the visitation passage is the Gospel may be a great time to highlight how your parish supports moms in need.
5. Take advantage of the calendar. There are natural times to highlight certain ministries. For example, many parishes engaging in the Walking with Mom’s in Need Initiative will use Mother’s Day and the Marian Feasts to highlight their work in supporting pregnant, parenting, and post-abortive women in need. Similarly, it’s common for parishes to advertise their hunger-related services around Thanksgiving or even the Super Bowl.
6. Ask your parishioners to engage their professional networks. Chances are your parishioners work for the local school district, the local police, the local hospital, and other helping areas. Take advantage of these connections and ask your parishioners to inform their colleagues of the services that your parish is offering!
7. Send them out with the information. Most of the important information about an individual ministry should be able to fit on a business card. Periodically have cards printed with information like food pantry hours, bereavement group times and locations, or the existence of free-child care at parish events and challenge parishioners to find someone to give the business card away to in the coming week.
How does your parish empower parishioners to support and promote your Evangelical Charity ministries? Join the conversation in our online community !