Pastor’s Ponderings

From Kathy…

It’s January, so it’s check-in time with how we are doing with visitors and newcomers. I want to take this opportunity to remind us all of some of the things we do in order to live out God’s call on us to be an inclusive and welcoming church. It doesn’t happen by accident. It takes intentional behavior on the part of everyone sitting in the pews and serving in our mission and ministry for newcomers to feel welcome. Below I’ve listed some actions that help us to be a welcoming church. If you are saying to yourself, oh I don’t need to do this because I feel awkward or uncomfortable or other people are better at this—please re-think your response. If you are the person sitting next to someone new and you don’t take the opportunity to greet and talk with that new person for at least a minute or two, that new person will perceive our church as unwelcoming and unfriendly. This really is one of those things that we all need to engage in—even if we just say one or two things to the new person and then take them over to someone who enjoys meeting new people!! So here are some suggestions:

  • Talk to anyone you don’t know before or after the worship service. Give them the opportunity to share a little about themselves and avoid overwhelming them with church “stuff”.
  • The Rule of 3: During the worship service identify people you do not know and make a determined effort to talk to them within 3 minutes of conclusion of the service. Many newcomers try to slip out quickly, but if we can connect with them, they will have a greater sense of welcome. This is an important outreach effort that must have priority over greeting friends. Ideally every member of the congregation serves in this capacity.
  • The Circle of 10 Rule: talk to and learn the names of everyone you don’t know who is in a 10 foot radius of where you are sitting.
  • If you’re not sure if someone is new, you might say “Hi, I’m ___. I haven’t had the opportunity to meet you before. And then ask them if they are new to the church and if they are, if they are new to the community. You can ask them about hobbies, movies, what they are looking for in a church, family, most interesting place they have lived, first memory of God, etc.
  • Please wear your name tag. The feedback I have received from some newcomers is that they wonder if the existing congregation wants them present because we are not wearing our name tags and it makes it difficult for newcomers to know who people are. Okay, let’s be honest, those of us who have been around for a while could also use the help name tags provide. I thought one way to resolve this would be to call everyone Horatio or Hortense but alas, some folks thought that might not be a good idea. So please wear your name tag.
  • Do you want to learn more ideas about how to greet new people? Shadow someone who enjoys doing it (I would be glad to give you some suggestions).

Here are some suggestions for integrating newcomers into the life of our community:

  • Invite them over to the fellowship time and engage them in deeper conversation
  • Get their contact info and invite them to the movies, your favorite restaurant or over to your home for dinner or lunch.
  • Having a picnic? Invite some newcomers
  • Invite a newcomer to join a small group with you.
  • Having a party or gathering? Invite some newcomers
  • Offer to pick up a newcomer for the next Fellowship Event—we have some really cool events.
  • Invite a newcomer to go bike riding or walking or bowling or skating or?
  • Make a new year’s resolution to invite a friend or family member who does not have a faith community to worship or one of our events. Pick them up, sit with them at worship or the event, and introduce them around. Research shows that the great majority of people (86%) first come to a church because they were invited to do so by a family member or friend.

Let’s not underestimate the power that a personal connection has with a newcomer searching for a place in God’s family—you may be that connection!

As always, I am happy to talk with you about these or any other issues or concerns.

Grace & Peace, Pastor Kathy

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