Lent is here, and you know what that means - it's oh"fish"ally Fish Fry season.
Your church is having one. The Knights of Columbus are having one. The Catholic school is having one. Even the Protestant church down the street is having one!
The Catholic tradition of having fish on Fridays in place of abstinence from meat has grown so popular that even secular organizations like fire stations get in on the game now.
With so many fish fries to compete with, how can you make yours stand out? Here's four tips for a so"fish"ticated marketing strategy.
Cast Out Into the Deep
Let me take a wild guess - the only place you've advertised your fish fry is in the church bulletin.
That's like the equivalent of only fishing on the shore.
Fish fries are a fantastic community event because they attract even marginal Catholics (and non-Catholics!) with their "safety" - you don't have to be religious to enjoy fish after all. Of all the events you share, this is the one to plaster everywhere: community calendars, newspaper and radio events boards, the post office, even your bulletin sponsors' businesses.
If you do this, be sure to take advantage of tip 4 below too, because they go hand-in-hand...or fin-in-fin.
For Heaven's Hake
People are far more likely to give to charitable causes when they know what the money is going towards.
So instead of just a general fish fry, maybe it's a "Fix the Foyer Fish Fry" to repaint the church entryway.
If you can connect your fish fry to a specific project that needs doing at the church, people who may not be particularly cray-zy about the food may still stop by to support the project.
Here's something that occurred to me the other day - why is it always a fish fry? Why not some other meatless option?
Let's be real: There's only so many fish fries you can attend in one seven-week period. Chances are, you're not going to attend every single one in your area.
But what if you had something different - like a meatless pasta supper or a make your own pizza night?
My husband's childhood church had "Soup, Scripture, and Stations" during Lent - now that's something different (and alliteration never hurts for memorability)!
Making Fishers of Men
You know how we always complain that we can never get people to church?
There's just something about food that brings people out of passivity and right onto your property. (If only they knew about the Bread of Life!)
Fish fries are one of the EASIEST evangelization opportunities, but so many times, we simply hand people their fried fish and away they go.
Here are just a few ideas for simple evangelization outreach to include at your fish fry:
That Lenten mission or talk series you're planning? Have one of the talks during the fish fry (and offer childcare for young families!). Just make sure it's an accessible topic for any faith level, since you may attract beyond your regular Sunday crowd.
Offer saint coloring pages or simple Bible story sheets for the kids to work on while the family eats. Want to up the ante? Tell anyone who brings the sheet to Mass that Sunday and shows it to Father will get a prize (even something like a sticker pack or small kids book can be enticing!).
Is your fish fry takeout? Include a program in the bag with a simple explanation of the Lenten season or dive deeper and take on a tough topic of the church (and explain it!). Be sure to add in ways they can continue to connect with you and your Easter Mass schedule.
It's no sea-cret: Getting into the fish fry game has some steep competition! But hopefully these tips will give your church the big fin-ale you desire.