Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Becoming a Welcoming Congregation

Here are some excellent suggestions for becoming a welcoming congregation from Neal Michell, the Canon Missioner for Strategic Development in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, TX. They complement Lutheran pastor Chuck Hazlett's statement of radical welcome quite nicely.

Good, quality programs in a church can be helpful, but there are times when more is required than simply having a quality program. This is particularly true when it comes to being a welcoming congregation.

Many growing congregations grow, not because they have a particularly excellent newcomers ministry – although that helps. Many congregations grow because they are, quite simply, welcoming congregations. They are aware of the newcomers in their midst, and they have a value of “welcoming the stranger.”

The suggestions for becoming a welcoming congregation are not so much programmatic as they are values that individuals can embrace. Here are seven:

  1. Remember the Rule of 3 to 1. The Rule of 3 to 1 is this: talk to three newcomers on any given Sunday for every one regular person that you talk to.
  2. Pass off the new person you’ve just met to someone else. Don’t just greet someone and say, “It was nice to meet you.” Introduce them to someone else. Let your newcomers connect to as many people as possible.
  3. Introduce yourself with a question. Many people don’t like to talk to newcomers because they are afraid of embarrassing themselves by mistaking a long-time member with a newcomer. An easy way to get around that fear is to introduce yourself, “Hi, my name is ________. I’ve been coming here two years. How long have you been coming to this church?” This open-ended question doesn’t presume that the person you’re speaking with is a newcomer or a member. It allows them to reveal either.
  4. Don’t monopolize the priest. Most newcomers really would like to visit with the priest. I once visited a church where the line to talk to both priests was about twenty-five people long. So, I left rather than wait to visit with the priests. They need to be available to greet the new folks. The priest is one of the greatest evangelistic tools that the church has.
  5. When giving directions: Take, don’t point. When I go to Academy Sports Goods, I’m always so impressed when I ask directions, the customer service agent never points me in the direction where I need to go. This person usually walks with me until I get to the department that I’m looking for. In most of our churches, this kind of personal assistance only takes a minute. Don’t point them in the direction of the Nursery, take them there. It is so gracious.
  6. Have a positive attitude about your church. If you’re not excited about your church, nobody else will be, either. A positive attitude is infectious.
  7. Don’t just meet, Invite. That is, don’t just say hello to the newcomer; find out what his or her interests are and connect that person with an appropriate activity or person in the church, such as, ministry, small group, Sunday School class, Bible Study, etc.


Greg Goebel said...

Thanks. May we reprint this in our parish newsletter? We will make the proper attributions as you indicate.
(the Revd) Greg Goebel
Resurrection Anglican Church
Woodstock, GA

Bryan Owen said...

By all means use this as much as you find it helpful, Greg. It would be wonderful and greatly appreciated if you plugged my blog, but the most important thing is to give credit to Neal Michell.

Blessings to you in your ministry!