How to Start Your Own PNO
Article ID: 13386
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,326
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Author: Bronwen Forbes [a WitchVox Sponsor]
Posted: August 16th. 2009
Times Viewed: 4,226
A Pagan Night Out (or PNO) , also called meetup or moot, is a local weekly or monthly get-together of Pagans and Pagan-friendly folk. PNOs are a good way for newcomers to or those interested in Paganism to learn a little bit more in a friendly environment that requires no commitment whatsoever. These get-togethers are also a great way for those of us who have been around the community for a while to actually start researching and presenting informal lectures on topics near and dear to our hearts.
Frankly, we could use a lot more PNOs. A LOT. Just a quick glance at any state’s Witchvox page proves that there are so many (too many) small to medium-size towns that are home to a couple dozen Pagans, but unless someone in the area feels qualified to lead a coven, there is no venue for these folks to get together. So they don’t. And the opportunity to share information and ideas and feel like part of a community of like-minded souls is lost.
Fortunately, starting your own PNO or meetup is not that difficult. You don’t have to be any sort of elder or expert, or think you will have to come up with a topic for every meeting.
The first thing you need to do is decide how often you want to meet. Once a month is normal, but I recommend once a week, especially if there is nothing else Pagan-y going on in your town. Why? Because people who have heard about the meeting or seen it posted (more on this below) are more likely to check it out if it’s every week. They may miss this week, and even next week, but the week after that they remember in time to show up. If your PNO is once a month, your potential attendees are more likely to forget which Tuesday of the month it is, and less likely to show up.
The next thing you’ll need, obviously, is a place to meet. If you have Unitarians or Quakers in your town who have their own meeting space, you are in luck. You may have to attend their (Unitarian) services or (Quaker) meetings for a while so they get to know you. In my experience, a typical Sunday morning Unitarian service ranges from practically Pagan to spiritually neutral; you’re not likely to feel uncomfortable. A Sunday morning Quaker meeting mostly consists of people sitting together in silence, much as they would at a Buddhist temple, although occasionally someone will feel “moved by the Spirit” to get up and say something.
Once you are comfortable with the Unitarians and/or Quakers, casually ask if you could use their space for a weekly discussion group. Be honest and tell them what the discussion is to be about, i.e. things Pagan. Offer to accept small monetary donations from the discussion attendees to cover the cost of utilities your PNO will use (lights, water) during the meeting. Promise you will not do Pagan ritual in their sacred space. If the Quakers or Unitarians say no, respect their answer and move on.
If you don’t have Quakers or Unitarians in your town or you’re not comfortable working with them, you will need to find a year-round place to meet. Unless you live in a part of the country that has perfect outdoor weather 365 days of the year, that place needs to be inside – moving the meeting back and forth between a park in the summer and an indoor location in the winter is going to confuse potential members, and likely cause them not to come.
Your best bet is probably a restaurant, either one that is very busy (so no one can eavesdrop) or one that has little to no business. I recommend *against* buffets where attendees MUST pay for a meal to get in the door whether they eat anything or not. My favorite PNO site was a pizza place where, even though there were tables in the restaurant, about 90% of its business was delivery. Hardly anyone ever ate there, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
The manager was tickled to bits to have ten to twenty people show up at his restaurant every second Wednesday of the month and, at minimum, order a soft drink. If he’d had his way, we’d be there every night, and just so we kept ordering food and drink, he could have cared less about our obvious jewelry and topics of discussion.
Some chain restaurants like Perkins and Denny’s have private or semi-private back rooms available for group use, but you need to reserve them in advance, and make it clear in your publicity what “name” the reservation is under.
Speaking of publicity, this is your next hurdle. Unless you are ready to assume a minimum of $12 a month fee or demand a financial commitment from your attendees, I recommend against using the services of Meetup.com. Yes, Meetup will send out the lovely reminder emails for you, but it’s expensive.
Fortunately, there are cheap (i.e. free) ways to get the word out about your group. Witchvox, of course, is a must-post place for your PNO information. If people in your town have a listing on Witchvox that says they are open to invites, send out an email.
Check and see if there are any Yahoo email groups that cover your town. Even if you are an hour or more away from a big city that does have a Yahoo group, join it – you never know who else in your town is a member. Post polite, *occasional* reminders and updates about your PNO.
Informal bulletin boards or information kiosks at your local college are also good places to put a flyer. College students are often curious about religions other than the one they grew up in. Since these boards and kiosks are usually outdoors, you may want to place your flyer in a plastic sheet protector first. Also, make plans to repost your flyer every month or so – while some college students are curious, others are also pretty strong in the faith of their childhood and may feel the need to tear down your flyer.
See if you can have a notice listed in the religion section or community calendar page of your local newspaper. Some editors won’t allow it, but others may surprise you – you won’t know until you ask.
If you have a Unitarian church or fellowship in town, even if you’re not meeting in their space, ask if you can post a flyer on their bulletin board or have a notice listed in their newsletter or on the website.
Do you have a natural food store or food co-op in town? Ask if you can post a flyer there – many Pagans are “into” the teas, herbs and cruelty-free hygiene products that natural food stores sell.
So the flyers are posted, your Witchvox notice is getting hits, what do you do now? You put on as much Pagan-identifying jewelry as you’re comfortable with, go to the meeting place at the regularly scheduled time, take a book or magazine to keep you entertained, and you sit. And sit. And sit. Our local PNO coordinator sat alone every Tuesday for at least couple months before anyone else showed up.
But show up we did, and now we’ve not only got a lively weekly discussion going, we collectively decided to start a small, local Pagan festival that will have about 25 people attending this first year. Not bad for a town where, just a few months ago, the Pagans didn’t even know each other.
If you build it, they will come.
Location: Bloomington, Indiana
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