‘I don’t think we’re very good at getting people involved’.
Not my words. They could have been. But they weren’t this time. They came, not from a disaffected newcomer who was disappointed that we hadn’t provided her with the warm welcome she was hoping for. It was the mature reflection of a woman who’d been around at church for a while. As it happens, I agree with her.
One indication that we’re not the best at CCB at including the newcomers that the Lord has been bringing us could be their attendance over the last few weeks at our start of term events. I’m talking about things like the Autumn Bible School, the Annual Dinner, the Thanksgiving Prayer Meeting and so on. People have come on a Sunday. But they’ve not wanted to join us at the more ‘intimate’ family events.
Who’s to blame? Is it six of one half a dozen of the other? Or should we slice the percentage somewhat differently? I’m not convinced that’s a helpful approach. But what I am clear about is that there’s more that those of us who are part of the furniture could do to help incorporate newcomers into our church family.
I don’t want to teach Grandma to suck eggs. But at CCB, we don’t seem to have a surplus of octogenarians inhaling any ova! (Latin plural of ovum which, according to Microsoft Word Thesaurus, means ‘eggs’) It might be different for you at your church, which is great. So forgive me if you feel patronised but I’m going to remind us of some of the kinds of things that we could be doing to help incorporate newcomers into our particular body of Christ.
1. Seek out unfamiliar faces at church – you may have been doing church with them for donkey’s years and perhaps you should really know their names by now but every church is founded on forgiveness so we can afford to risk a few errors. Don’t let that stifle your efforts to approach people you don’t normally spend time with.
2. Engage them in conversation – ask them who they are, what they do for a living, how they came to hear of us, whether they’d normally go to a church, where home is and so on. Just ask, ask and ask. It’s the way to find out more, show an interest and get to know them!
3. Encourage them to join your Facebook group (if you have one) – I know; it’s awful isn’t it. But it’s actually a hugely effective way of getting to know people’s names as well as letting them know what’s going on. Stuff happens online. Virtual relationships get formed and then (who knows) they can be pursued in real life!
4. Get their e-mail and phone number – it’s quite forward but when the request is attached to an offer of meeting up for a coffee or dropping them a line about some of the things we do at church it won’t seem so odd.
5. Include them in an event – it could be a social event like someone’s birthday drinks or it could be an invitation to the Autumn Bible School. But we have a fairly packed church programme and a personal invitation from a member of the church family could make all the difference to them feeling included.
6. Invite them for a meal – you could meet up in town, near where they work or if you’re fortunate to have a home to which you can invite people for a meal then do that. It doesn’t have to be Sunday lunch but that’s as good a place to start as any!
This issue is a problem for us at the moment. But the bigger issue is whether we want to be part of the solution. Let’s pray that the God who has gone to incredible lengths to include us in His family might begin to see His character reflected amongst His people.