Monday, February 28, 2011
1) Choose a seat in the middle instead of the aisle. When I am flying on an airplane, I love the aisle. I never know when I might need to get up and go to the bathroom or get something in the overhead bin. My legs are long, and I also like to stretch them. However, church is not a flight and the sanctuary is not an airplane. Why do most people gravitate towards the aisle? We’re not really going anywhere! Rather than coming in and taking an aisle seat, how about moving to the middle and making room for others who might come later and need to sit on the aisle?
2) Immediately introduce yourself. It happens to me often – I introduce myself only to hear, “I’ve been here before.” It’s a little awkward, for sure, and I try hard to remember someone’s name. However, it is better to err on the side of safety and say, “I’m not sure I have met you before,” than to not say anything at all.
3) Invite someone to coffee hour with you and show them how to get to the Fellowship Hall. I am a huge extrovert. I love people. However, I am often completely intimidated by large gatherings where I do not know people. The same is true for coffee hour. It is so hard to walk into that space alone. It is easier to make a bee-line for the door. Our goal is to make sure no one bee-lines for the door but instead that everyone is asked and then personally accompanied to coffee hour.
4) Arrive on time – or a little early! Most of our first-time visitors arrive early – in order to find a place to park and then figure out how to get to the sanctuary. They often walk into a sanctuary that is almost empty. The service then starts with around 25 people in the pews and then somehow, by the end of the service we have 85 people in the pews. Help us make the right first impression – the impression of a vital church with a beautiful, diverse congregation – by being on time!
5) Reverse Greet – we are great at providing greeters for people who come into the church but we sometimes miss some of the bee-liners because we have so many different doors. Would you be willing to help us by going to one of these doors following the service and letting folks know how glad you are that they chose to come to your church?
6) Sign in – all the way in. Have you heard the statement, “monkey see, monkey do?” The same thing happens with our visitors. When you only write your name in the red book, they only write their name in the book. However, when you write your name, address, email and phone number, they will do the same. This information is so important to us! Your signing the book is also important to us as we are seeking to do a better job of keeping track of who has missed worship. I know it takes a little longer – but would you be willing to sign in as if it is your first time even if you have been here 500 times – letting us know all your information so that the person sitting next to you will do the same?
What about you? What makes you feel welcome when you are visiting a church for the first time? What are your tips?
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Saturday, February 12, 2011
The United Methodist Church has lost members every year since the merger of 1968.
The average age of worshippers are on the rise throughout the nation, however, the United Methodist Church is “already gray.” The congregational life survey,” “Who Attends United Methodist Churches?,” conducted by the Office of Research and Planning makes the following observations:
For every young adult under twenty-five years old, there are six senior citizens. In fact, there are almost twice as many senior citizens occupying United Methodist pews than there are adults aged twenty-five to forty-four. In typical congregations, those aged forty-five to sixty-four make up the largest group.18
The survey concludes, “If a denomination’s future rests upon the shoulder’s of the young, then The United Methodist Church must intensify its efforts to attract and involve young adults who currently make up the smallest portion of its population.”19
A significant warning sign to note is that in United Methodist congregations across the country, only four in ten United Methodist worshippers have children living at home. This is a full 25% below the national average. The people filling United Methodist pews are most likely to be women, well educated, and aged forty-five years or older.20
These words do not paint a picture of a vital denomination. They do not speak of a flourishing church.
At the same time, many congregations are growing. The church I serve, Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, has experienced a complete transformation in the last five years. We have gone from a congregation with an average age of 82 to a congregation that is known for attracting young adults and their families. Just five years ago, our chair of SPRC was 97 years old, our Finance Chair was 93 and our lay leader was 90. We now have in place an entirely new leadership team composed of people who have come in the last three to four years. What's changed? A whole lot. But one of the things that has changed is that we flung open our doors. We intentionally decided to be open to all people. We discerned a call to become part of the Reconciling Ministries Network. And one of our five-year goals is to work towards a transformed United Methodist Church.
Starting now, bodies across our country known as Annual Conferences are starting to look at pieces of legislation that will come before them this summer. At least three pieces of legislation that will come before the Baltimore Washington Annual Conference deal with sexuality. We'll debate again throughout the summer about who is welcome in our churches and who is not. We'll decide via votes about whose lives are incompatible with Christian teaching, ignoring all the while that most of our lives are incompatible as many of us are considered rather wealthy and are not sharing near what Jesus calls us to share. I'm what is described a goat in Matthew 25 more days than I would ever be considered a sheep.
Meanwhile, we are getting our butts kicked. We are losing members. We are growing older. We are becoming irrelevant.
What would it mean for us to take one for the team - for us to take one for Christ's Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven? What would it mean for us to put the energy we use on bullying people - on telling people that they are less than us because of the way they love - and put it into what is really important?
I pray for a transformed church. I pray for a church that is known for what we stand for - Christ's love, mercy, and grace; our love of God and neighbor; our commitment to justice; the impact we have on the communities of which we are a part; our ministries for and with the least of these. I pray for a championship win - the kind in which more people are being won over to Christ because the door was opened to them instead of being shut out.
What will it take for us to come together? What will it take for us to sing our hearts out - together as one - dancing in delight?