It has been over seven years since I heard those words, “Will you help us? We’re not a very friendly church.” I was greeting church members in my new appointment, following the traditional worship service in the sanctuary. “Tell me more,” I responded. The member continued, “We have always been a close-knit congregation – generations and generations of friends and neighbors who have worshiped together. Since our relocation to this new part of town three years ago, we have struggled to know how to make all these new people feel welcome. Can you help us?”
Relocation from deep roots in the historic city square in a rapidly-growing county is not easy.
I commend the faith and work of churches that recognize such an opportunity for growth and expanded ministry. The journey of our congregation was filled with conflicts and fears, but eventually with amazing fruit. Over 2000 new members have been welcomed into our membership since the move. Heretofore unimagined ministries in this new area of city growth have revolutionized our presence in this area. How did that happen?
- As Pastor of Inviting Ministries, I began a 2-fold effort to tell all our guests that they would find us to be a welcoming faith community, and subsequently taught our church how to be that welcoming community.
- Every Monday I emailed or called guests, establishing relationship with them quickly. I wanted to be an accessible pastor. We witnessed the cultural communication shift through social media and discontinued the Yellow Pages and local newspaper ads. Ninety percent of our guests were coming because of an online search for churches in the area. It was time to focus on websites, Facebook page, and Twitter, so we asked our members to share and like and help us tell our story.
- Our Inviting Ministries Team set up three branches of volunteers: Welcome Center hosts, Greeters for worship services, and Tour Guide hosts. Each year we review our effectiveness and provide training for new laity who join our teams.
Pastors, especially new pastors, are often asked, “Will you help us?” Are you equipped to help?