OCF chapters are always looking for new ways to engage more students. Here’s an easy fellowship event you can add to your calendar to attract more students.
As we’ve said before, you’ll have better attendance over time if you meet consistently and offer a variety of activities. Once a week is really best, but that doesn’t mean you have to do the same thing every week or even on the same day of the week. Let’s say your chapter meets bimonthly on Thursdays right now. Consider adding a weekly dinner or lunch on the Tuesdays in between meetings. Or maybe your chapter does meet every week, but your meetings are fairly similar in structure every week–try adding a monthly dinner for a change of pace. Here are a few ideas for planning OCF meals:
- Meet on campus or at a favorite spot that’s walk-able from campus. This is a great way to engage more freshmen who are living on campus. It’s as easy as having the president and another student commit to having lunch every week together and then opening it up to anyone who wants to come when they have time.
- Go out before or after your regular meetings. This is an easy one, too, though it may not draw a new crowd if they aren’t quite sure about the meetings yet or have a scheduling conflict.
- Take turns hosting. Have all the upperclassmen who have off campus housing take turns cooking for the whole group. Don’t forget to offer rides if you can!
- Involve the parish. Talk to your spiritual advisor or lay coordinator to see if parishioners at the local parish(es) might be interested in hosting occasional meals for the group. You’ll have the blessing of getting to know the amazing people at your parish and learning from them as well as sharing your OCF experience with them.
- Budget in the meals. If you are cooking yourself or going out to eat, try to see if you can get a small budget from the local parish or a generous parishioner for your meals or collect a few dollars at the beginning of the semester from everyone to offset the costs that way people don’t feel like they have to say no to coming because they’re short on cash.
- Try a fasting day. Dinner any night of the week is great, but sometimes it can be hard as a student, especially if you’re on a meal plan, to keep the fasts of the Church. Joining together as a chapter on a Wednesday or Friday can be a great way to offer everyone a chance to offer up a little fast to Christ (plus, you could save the extra money to do a service project or support a charity or organization you love).
- Do a dinner with another chapter. Get to know another chapter in your district by planning a special off campus meal once a semester or once a month with the members of another chapter.
I have personally seen all of these suggestions played out in chapters successfully. Talk about it, try it out, and see what works best for your group. You’ll be amazed that often some students just needed a little food to motivate them to get involved! Be prepared that some students may only show up for meals and not other events at first–that’s ok–embrace them while they are with you and be patient. Meals are also a great way to invite visitors to an OCF meeting whether it’s someone from the local Orthodox community, friends of chapter members, or another organization on campus.