Summary of Case Study
St. John Vianney (SJV) Catholic Parish in Belgrade, MT conducted a parish wide census following the
Emissary Program offered by Lighthouse Catholic Media. At the time, they were the fifth parish to ever conduct such a program. Prior to this program, St. John Vianney’s Pastor, Fr. Eric Gilbaugh, preached a series of homilies on evangelization during the Easter season. Then, in a parish-wide meeting, the parish selected the Emissary Program as one of the ways in which to evangelize.
Mr. John Meyer was selected as the volunteer director of this program. He had been a FOCUS missionary and had “a lot” of experience in this type of evangelization. “I’ve done this quite a bit,” he said. “Even cold calls and door-to-door. Evangelization was not new to me and I was very excited in doing it.”
He prepared a talk which was then presented to the parish during the announcements at the end of Mass. He received fairly positive feedback and a great deal of parishioners came to the orientation – training sessions required if one wanted to be an emissary.
In total, 2905 homes within the parish boundaries were surveyed and there are only six planned “zones” that have not been completed at this time. The survey was very brief and emissaries averaged about one home per one hundred seconds.
In regards to newcomers to the parish, there was very little tangible fruit. In fact, Fr. Gilbaugh stated, “There were a few unfamiliar faces at Masses immediately following. One woman called to ask some questions, but no tangible, lasting effect…I’m surprised at the lack of tangible results, but am more concerned with being faithful at evangelizing rather than successful with methodology. Until you try something (and this [program] is brand new), how can you know what the result will be?”
However, there was a great deal of fruit fostered within the emissaries themselves. Mr. Meyer stated,
“As far as the emissaries, we had great turn-out the summer where this was a big theme in the parish (2014). We had repeated sessions since even though we only had two orientations, we had several weekends in which we evangelized. And, the emissaries responded consistently…There were very few who, after one experience, quit. So that is a good indication that it was a success and there was fruit. What brings them back is that they felt ‘this is a way I am building my faith and serving Christ; and I want to do more.’”
On an individual basis, it at least achieved “I stuck my neck out and it didn’t hurt that bad” and “it builds a level of confidence to talk about Jesus Christ and His Church to a perfect stranger.”
Costs of the program – $9345 for enough supplies to give gifts to approximately 3200 homes.
It took an emissary about two hours to do an “A” zone (forty homes); 2.5-3 hours to do a “B” zone (sixty homes); 3-3.5 hours to do a “C” zone (eighty homes). On average, it took 100 seconds per 1 home.
Of the 2905 households surveyed at this time, 63.33 % were “Other/unknown”; 23.24% were “Protestant”; 13.43% were “Catholic”.
Of the 213 homes where emissaries tracked what “Other/unknown” actually consisted of, 183 (86%) can be considered “Not home”, 3 (1.4%) were “No soliciting”, and 27 (12.6%) fell within the “Other” category.
Of the 388 homes where emissaries differentiated between “Not Home” and “Other”, 173 answered the door for a total of 45% participation.
The addresses for the Catholics will be used to send Christmas and Easter mailers in conjunction with the upcoming “Catholics, Come Home” media and billboard campaign. Future use of the data is varied, but could include a concentrated effort on a particular demographic through mailers or even a different type of door-to-door evangelization campaign.