Evaluation of the Open Weekend, 8 - 9 September 2012

Evaluation St Chad's Open Weekend, 8 & 9 September 2012

This is a report on the St Chad's Open Weekend held on 8 & 9 September 2012, gleaned from the volunteers from the congregation who helped on the days and from a debriefing session held a few weeks later.

The Church, Hall and Community Wildlife Garden were open from 10am until 4pm on Saturday 8 and from 11am (after the Parish Eucharist) until 4pm on Sunday 9 September. Throughout these times volunteers from the congregation were on hand to welcome visitors, show them round the Church and Garden and to provide them with refreshments in the Hall. The impression of St Chad's given to visitors was crucially dependent on the involvement and commitment of these volunteers so thanks are due to all of them.  A brief service of Holy Communion was held at 2pm on the Saturday, the weekend was rounded off by Evensong at 4pm on the Sunday and Robert Nicholls provided organ music for periods on both afternoons. Thanks are also due to all involved in these more formal ways.

The Open Days were publicised by large posters on the notice boards in the church grounds, smaller posters around the neighbourhood and smaller still handbills handed out to passers-by in local streets. Information appeared on the websites of the Manchester Diocese and of the Withington Civic Society. Unfortunately, due to an oversight about dates, we were not able to appear on the website of the National Heritage Open Days organisation.

The Open Days were blessed with glorious warm sunny weather which was a great boon. Not only did this tempt visitors out of doors and make the garden attractive, it meant that the church was warm without the heating being on, even though the doors were fully open. There were in the region of 50 visitors – that is, who were not already members of the congregation and it seems that most visited both the church and the garden. Most of the visitors appeared to be from the local area, in many cases known to one or more of the volunteers.

On the two Sundays after the weekend – 16 and 23 September – volunteers and other members of the congregation were offered evaluation forms to capture feelings about and responses to the weekend while they were fresh in people's minds. The responses and further comments made during the debriefing meeting are summarised overleaf and provide a valuable source of information.

The overall evaluation was that the weekend had been valuable, a great deal had been learned about providing for visitors and that the whole activity was worth doing again. In deciding whether or not an open weekend or similar should be held in the future, the PCC should consider
1. What would be the best time of year? This cannot be much later in the year if the (significant) cost of heating the church is to be avoided and the garden is to look its best.
2. Is the National Heritage Open Days time slot (12 – 15 September in 2013) appropriate, bearing in mind

  1. the timing and impact of a stewardship campaign
  2. if students are part of the target audience, they generally return to Manchester/Ladybarn only in late September
  3. possibly linking an open weekend to Back to Church Sunday (29 September in 2013)

3. Who is the priority audience for an open weekend? Is it people from the local community might become involved with St Chad's? Is it visitors brought to St Chad's possibly from further afield through the National Heritage Open Days website?
4. What should or can be done to present St Chad's as a working church with a mission rather than as merely some kind of museum?
5. There is scope for involvement of a church man or woman with wider appeal – to preach or give an address in a non-service context. A PCC decision to pursue this possibility would be needed sooner rather than later.

Outline of evaluation form with a digest of responses received

St Chad’s Open Weekend, 8 & 9 September 2012

Please let us have your views

1. What was good about the weekend? Responses in italics
New people came, people from the fringes of church came, church people worked together and got to know each other, good team work, church was open, raising awareness in the community, more people involved, garden very popular

2. What could have been done differently?
Good stuff for the children in the garden, not so much in the Hall. An advertised list of children's activities would attract parents. More stalls in the Hall. Opening times could be shorter, especially on the Sunday, or even just have an open day on a Saturday. Artistic Explosion just for one day. The service on Saturday was in the wrong place and an inappropriate format; something non-Eucharistic would be better. More and more eye-catching publicity. A bigger effort on distributing handbills – the comparatively modest effort this year worked well. Advertise in the South Manchester Reporter and other local free sheets. Have a formal guided tour of the church. Explain the significance and use of the vestments &c. on display.

3. What additional things could be done in the future to attract non-churchgoers?
(Only a few responses to this question.) More descriptive publicity saying, for example, “refreshments available” and emphasising “your church”. More music in addition to the organ music – e.g. ask Anne-Mauraide to play, have recorded music. A list of church activities should be available for visitors to take away. A specific exhibition to interest visitors – say about the church and the two world wars.

4. Should another similar weekend be organized in the future? (Yes/No)
A strong “Yes” in response to this question

5. Did you help with the weekend? Yes/No
a. If “Yes” then where? (Church, hall, kitchen, garden, ... )
b. Would you be prepared to help if a future event were held?
Almost everyone who filled in an evaluation form had helped in one or more places. Most would be prepared to take part again.

6. Any other comments or suggestions?
(Only a few responses to this question.) Disappointingly few strangers came – most visitors had some existing connection with St Chad's or another local church. Disappointingly few members of the St Chad's congregation dropped by.

Thank you for your comments