Archive for October, 2018

2017-0031Thanksgiving hasn’t yet arrived but it’s time to begin thinking about how your church will welcome its guests this Christmas season…

In most churches, Christmas Eve is the largest attended worship service. It has more unchurched or dechurched persons who attend that service than any other service of the year including Easter. Christmas Eve provides us with a huge opportunity to connect with these persons.

Think of yourself as a person who has been away from the church or has not been a part of a church for whatever reason. However, as Christmas Eve approaches, you feel a nudge to attend one of the Christmas Eve worship services somewhere. What are your concerns? Hesitancies? Expectations?

It is not easy for those outside the church to decide to attend a Christmas Eve service. They are concerned because they are not sure what to expect. What will the worship service be like? Will they even like it? They may be hesitant and wonder if they will feel welcomed and accepted. What will it be like to walk into a church where you may not be known by anyone? They do come with expectations. Will something happen in that service that will lift their spirits? Will something happen that will give them a nudge in a new direction?

Will your church be ready for these guests when they come Christmas Eve? Below is a checklist for you to review with your hospitality team to make sure you are ready for guests taking a risk to come to your Christmas Eve Service:

  • Will there be people in the parking lot and/or the door to warmly greet the guests? The temptation for greeters is to engage with the people they know the best and say “Hello” to the ones they do not know. Encourage your greeters to reverse that trend. Ask them to engage the people they do not know and say “hello” to others knowing they can engage the people they know later.
  • When they enter the church, will anyone beyond the greeters greet them? This is a good time to have what are often called “Connectors.” These are people who have some hospitality gifts whose task is to watch for people they do not know and engage them in conversation that begins, “Hello, my name is ___________. Have we met before? Find out something about these guests without making them feel uncomfortable. If they have children, take the family to the nursery and introduce them to the nursery worker(s). Show them the way to the sanctuary and introduce them to one of the ushers.
  • Is the responsibility of the ushers just to pass out the programs and take the offering? If so, remind them of the importance of their hospitality. They need to welcome the guests with a smile, a handshake, and welcoming words.
  • Is there an attractive “gift bag” that can be handed to them that has basic information about the church and its ministries? In the gift bag should be some information about the worship services in the new year that would entice the guest to return.
  • Has the congregation been taught to engage with people they do not know who sit within a few rows of them? It really makes a positive impression when a guest has someone setting near them who introduces themselves and welcomes them.
  • Will there be an opportunity for the guests as well as all those attending to record their attendance and provide some basic information? If we do not get some basic information, we cannot follow up after the service to invite them to return.
  • What follow-up will happen with those for whom we have received some contact information? A letter from the pastor acknowledging their attendance is always appreciated. Add them to your communication list so they can receive further information about the church and its ministries. Keep track to see if they return in the next six months.
  • Begin to pray now for those attending to have open hearts and minds. Pray for all those leading in some way in the worship service to do the best they can do in their respective areas.

With good hospitality, you have the potential to connect with guests who are not sure about the church but are willing to take the risk to attend your Christmas Eve worship service. You have the potential to connect these persons not only with you and the church but with Christ. This is the work of the church. Don’t miss this opportunity!

— Jack Hartman, Associate Director of Church Development

Note:  There is an online course from UM Communications on how to help your church become more welcoming.  Click here for details.

Advertisements

image1The following article shares how a older congregation has intentionally reached out to and is discipling new persons through an interactive worship experience…

For $3,000, Ft. Wayne Calvary UMC, prayed and started a modern Sunday 2nd worship service so that persons who didn’t have a close relationship with Jesus could get to know Him better.

In July 2017, retired Deacon, Heather Olson-Bunnell, was appointed as the church’s senior pastor. That summer she asked part-time staff, small groups and a new prayer group to pray for God’s future vision. All of the groups reached the same vision:  start a new casual worship/learning experience that would reach weekday T-ball, Girl and Boy Scouts, V.B.S., Zumba, Al-Anon, etc. families that didn’t connect with the traditional service. Chris, the part time youth director, heard God’s call. He kept praying on how to re-design a small youth service, that met at the same time as the traditional service, to meet the needs of families in their changing neighborhood.
image2.jpegMore prayer and a gifted young guitar player, David, joined a small leadership team as music director. Chris and Pastor Heather went to Single Council with a $3,000 request for God’s dream to be implemented that fall. With support of District Superintendent Dave Neckers and Church Development Associate Director Ed Fenstermacher, who helped with early planning, and continued prayers, grants were written to Indiana Conference Church Development and the North East District Church Builders. Both offered matching funds of $3,000 to Calvary’s original $3,000 investment for making new disciples. Several other donations totally $1,000 were also given.

The old fellowship hall was updated with new sound, lighting and more comfortable chairs.  These, along with round tables, helped create a coffee-house style worship space, which the church calls the “Lighthouse Center.” The lay-led leadership team, resourced by the pastor, began meeting weekly to pray and design a casual family friendly gathering space and worship themes based on video clips with shared questions around the tables as the learning format (no sermon). When the decision was made to have a weekly lunch as part of the worship experience, the UMW stepped up to offer their support and fall meal preparation. Extra food is sent home with families who have food insecurity.

The “soft opening” in early fall 2017 attracted several single-parent families as well as older adults. When parents were asked what they wanted their children to learn, the response was “basic Bible Stories and Baptism and Communion helps.” A lay person named Ginger received her Certified Lay Minister credential this year and worked with Elaine, the church’s part-time children and youth coordinator to develop a children’s ministry plan that would help children say “yes” to Jesus (and their parents to have resources to teach them).

The core base has grown through word-of-mouth.  They describe the growth as “intentionally organic.” The relaxed format makes guests feel comfortable in sharing at the tables as children and youth fully participate in prayer time and the collection of offering and attendance cards. Discussion usually continues during the meal time where persons share their lives together.

God has truly been on the move in the hearts of both the leadership team and this new Lighthouse worship/learning experience. One-half of the average 40 persons in weekly attendance are children and youth. (Previously Traditional worship only had 1-2 children and youth). This multi-generational, multi-cultural congregation has grown in faith together. The result has been 11 baptisms (7 children, 2 youth and 2 adults) in the past 6 months. Also 3 persons have joined Calvary UMC from this service and more will be joining this fall. New families are helping and providing for the Sunday meal as well as serving on Calvary’s Mission Education, UMW and Lighthouse Ministry Teams. There have also been one baptism and 4 persons join the church from the Traditional service.

An 88-year-old longtime member who died this past year left a financial gift to what he called “The New Calvary.” Four ceiling fans and a keyboard for the praise band were purchased this summer. As the Lighthouse moves into its second year, Chris, the facilitator, is now in the candidacy process for local pastor and mentoring David, the music director, to lead worship when he is on vacation. Rob was hired as lead tech to improve communication for both worship services and create a new website and church e-mail. He trains sound techs for both services.

Prayer continues to be the priority in next step planning as the Lighthouse lives into Calvary’s 3 Cs Vision Statement:

Connecting to the Community

Creating disciples of Jesus Christ

Celebrating with Worship, Prayer and Praise

The above has been shared by Rev. Heather Olson-Bunnell, senior pastor of Calvary UMC, Fort Wayne.