Archive for ◊ October, 2013 ◊

Author:
• Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Author: Gretchen

I want to tell you about a brilliant book I have just finished reading:  The Underground Church by Robin Meyers.  Every Christian in the United States needs to read this book regardless of denomination, level of conservatism or liberalism, whether you are part of an urban church or a country chapel.

Meyers makes innumerable helpful and realistic observations of the modern day American church in all its myriad forms.  But I have chosen to focus on just one  point which has the potential to transform what he calls our “Beloved communities” into  places of deeper meaning and farther-reaching impact:

At any given meeting of the “church council” or“consistory,” on any given evening in any given year, the focus is almost always on how best (and most cheaply) to perpetuate the “institution” of the church:  repairs for the aging building, salaries for pastor and/or staff, purchasing Sunday school curriculum and beautifying the grounds.   What Meyers proposes is that perpetuating a building and an organization may not be the best use of our time, particularly when right outside our building there may eb people sleeping udenr bridegs in snow and ice, or women being beaten in tehri homes or children trying to sleep with empty stomachs.

Focus on the inner working and beliefs of the church , Meyers suggests, only leads to arguments about money, leadership and theology.  What would happen if we, as Christian communities turned our focus outwards?  What if we made it our mission to do mission?  What if every Sunday morning found us worshipping in a place where others would see us and hear us, and what if we spent  Sunday afternoon together feeding hungry families?  How about canceling the Christian Ed meeting this month and spending that time volunteering together for a literacy program?

If we would take the focus off ourselves and begin actually taking action to make the world that “better place” we all take about, our ministry would take on truer meaning.  And guess what? If we were working side by side building a house for someone who’s never had one, or baking bread for a community dinner, we would not have time to fight over who is Conservative or who is Liberal or who doesn’t like the new pastor, or  which hymnal we should be using.

We should be about love.  We should be about nurturing deep affection for the world and the people God has given into our care.  We should think more about others than we do about ourselves, and more about God’s people in need than about keeping the fellowship room floor shiny.

      Doesn’t that sound more like the life to which Jesus calls us? 

 

 

Author:
• Wednesday, October 09th, 2013

Business networking groups have mastered making guests feel welcome. Anyone who has ever attended one of these groups knows that a core rule of networking is reaching out to visitors. You see someone standing alone and you get right over and talk to that person. In business, a visitor may become a client….

At church, a visitor may become a new member.

Often church members forget about reaching out to visitors. Oh, sure someone walks in for the first time and members believe they are welcoming. “Hello.” “Glad You’re Here.” But those welcomes can ring false if the visitor is greeted at the door and then ignored (except for the many eyes cast that way and the obvious speculation as to who this “stranger” may be).

Right now, you’re probably saying “No, our church is very friendly.” But feeling welcomed in a new place is more than a few words, it’s a culture. And many churches, with their long-time cliques and favorite seating arrangements, are much less welcoming than members might realize.

I was at church the other day and saw a visitor standing alone while several church members stood chatting, waiting for the service to begin. Presumably they had welcomed (or at least smiled at) the guest, but felt their church business took precedence over the comfort of a stranger in their midst.

Although many churches have greeters, that doesn’t mean that you as a church member can ignore a newcomer. Indeed, if there are several visitors, your rank of greeters may be stretched too thin. Step up to the role of welcoming people to your service.

Welcome To My Church #101
• Put yourself in the visitor’s place. Imagine how you would feel if you were visiting a new church and didn’t know anyone.
• Extend a genuine welcome – with a smile.
• Ask the visitor’s name. And give your own. First names only are fine.
• Ask a few friendly (versus nosey) questions:
Are you from this area?
What brought you to our church?
• Share a little about yourself and your role at the church
• Talk about your church and the service
• If possible, introduce the visitor to the pastor.
• Introduce the visitor, by name, to others. If the visitor has something in common with a member (like where they come from), include that in the introduction.
• If there are small children, point out the nursery. If older children, explain the Sunday School options.
• If it feels appropriate, offer to sit with the visitor.

After church
• Be sure the visitor knows where the fellowship hall is located.
• During fellowship, share information about church activities and invite the visitor to check them out.
• Invite the visitor to return, but casually (not out of desperation to increase membership rolls or add to a committee).

Admittedly, some visitors prefer to visit a new church under the radar. If you sense that a guest wants to be anonymous, back off. Be welcoming, but don’t smother.

Whether at a networking group or visiting a new church, a visitor’s decision to return is based on how he or she is treated by the members of the group. And you – as a member of your church – can make a lot of difference with your awareness, empathy and kindness.