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Pro-Active Welcome Attracts Young Parishioners


St. James the Greater
St. Louis
Archdiocese of St. Louis
United States

Simple outreach to new residents increases young parishioners' involvement in parish activities

"It's a lot of fun. We see young couples, families, singles, older people. They've all been welcoming to us and appreciate the gesture." -Margaret DeLargy, Parish Coordinator for Welcoming Team

The need it meets

Young Catholics moving into an area for the first time look for a place to belong, a church where they feel at home. At the same time, Catholic parishes need young people in their 20's and 30's to participate in parish life and ministry. This outreach ministry brings them together.

Where it came from

How it works

Current parishioners look out for and meet potential parishioners who have moved into the area. Their contact info is sent to the parish office, which in turn sends a welcome letter to the newcomers. A welcome team from the parish makes a visit at the newcomers' home with a welcome basket. When appropriate, the parish pastor will follow-up with a personal invitation to the new parishioners to get involved in some parish ministry.

The results

In just one year, over 70 gift baskets have been given out and dozens of new, young parishioners have gotten involved in the parish. One success story is a youth fellowship group that has since become a place for young professionals and married couples to get connected.

Key elements

How to implement it

  1. Contact potential parishioners. The pastor asks current parishioners to send contact info to the parish staff when someone new moves into the neighborhood.

  2. Fellow parishioners welcome the newcomers.

    • The outreach begins with a welcome letter including a listing of upcoming parish events.
    • A parishioner from the welcoming team phones them to say hello and ask if there is a convenient time to drop by.
    • A pair of parishioners visits with a welcome basket full of bread from a nearby bakery, gift certificates from area businesses, a bottle of wine, and an Irish blessing from a nearby shrine. Parishioners donate these gift baskets. The visits may take 5 minutes to an hour, depending on the person. Simply make them feel welcome and to show a friendly face. The welcome team also takes care to greet them after Mass and to help them feel at home in parish activities.
  3. The pastor follows up by personally inviting them to participate in a parish ministry. He explains the available opportunities and gives them a parish CD showing its various ministries. Then he invites them to get involved in whatever interests them most.

Fr. John Johnson is pastor of St. James the Greater.

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