It has been approximately 14 years since Christ Church Cathedral conducted an “all members” visitation initiative. Church development literature indicates that healthy churches are those that regularly conduct both “in-reach” and outreach; people need to feel a strong and sustained connection to their church community. Having a new Dean and a renewed Bishop and Chapter, it was felt there is tremendous opportunity for the church to reach out to one another in a visitation initiative.
In the fall of 2015 the lay chair of Bishop and Chapter approached me to see if I would be interested in leading an all member visitation program. I agreed to become the project lead and put together a project plan which was presented to Bishop and Chapter in February of 2016. The goals of the plan were as follows:
- Sharing and promotion of the unique Cathedral ministries and services through focused discussions
- Gathering facts, opinions and suggestions from those visited
- Connecting with recent newcomers and non-regulars and
- Informing and encouraging increases in our offerings
After some discussion, the Dean suggested adding a fifth area of focus:
- Invite volunteer participation for future initiatives.
The project plan outlined a critical path:
- announce the initiative at the annual meeting, February 21
- evaluate level of congregational support for the project
- review of Congregational List, March 31
- compilation of visitation materials, March 31
- half day training workshop, April 16 (Saturday)
- visits begin, April 23 (Saturday)
- visits end, May 7 (Saturday)
- debrief of visitors, May 29 (Sunday)
- final report to Bishop and Chapter, June 30
With some future modification (the visitation was extended to May 28 and the visitor debrief was moved to June 5); the plan was accepted by Bishop and Chapter at the February 15 meeting. The visitation was announced by the project lead at the annual congregational meeting on February 21.
Thirty-six visitors were recruited and were given a half day training session led by the project lead in April. The intent was to familiarize volunteers with the visitor information packages that were developed and assembled for this purpose; select the households to visit and answer any remaining questions.
Visitors were encouraged to select a minimum of five households to visit. They were instructed to telephone their households first to schedule a convenient time for the visit. If the parishioner did not wish to receive a visit from a volunteer, they would be invited to complete the questionnaire online or via hardcopy provided in the Cathedral nave.
Visits concluded on May 28. A de-brief for all volunteers was held June 6 and led by the project lead. The purpose of the focus group was to receive feedback from volunteers – what worked; what didn’t work? – the essence of which would help inform this final report.