Wednesday, September 3, 2008

In the Front Door and Out the Back

One of the interesting elements of church growth (or lack of it) is the amazing amount of people who begin attending, but soon stop. Why is that? It could be that the preaching is not up to their standards. It could be that they don’t like the type of music that is being sung. It could be that they don’t agree with the principles of the congregation (or denomination) as they become more aware of them. But in reality, I believe the main reason that so many people leave “out the back door” is simply because they are never integrated (or fused) into the congregation that they visit. Integration (or fusion) begins with the first visit. Are they heartily welcomed? Are they introduced to those they are worshiping near? Are they told of other events and study times available to them? Are they given the opportunity to learn more about the congregation? I’m afraid that all too often the answer to all of these previous questions is a resounding, “No!” While some people seek out a place where they can worship “anonymously,” most are actually looking for a place that they can call their church “home.” This is especially true of the smaller congregation. When you have someone stay at your house, do you expect them to find everything on their own? I doubt it! Instead, you show them where the clean towels are kept, you explain any “quirks” in the TV remote, and you do everything in your power to make them feel like they are “part of the family.” While we respect the privacy of guests in our home, we make sure that they feel welcome and are included in whatever is happening. If we have a cookout, we don’t send them to the local diner while we eat! If we decide to watch a movie, we include them in the process of deciding what we are going to watch. Unfortunately, we don’t always treat our church guests with the same amount of respect and compassion. We expect them to “fit in” and to “just know” what is going on in our church and for them to simply join in. That is not the picture of hospitality that the church needs to show visitors. If we truly want to have our visitors become regular attenders and eventually members, we need to get to know them! How can we best fuse new people with the current members if we don’t truly “know” them? The simple answer is that we can’t. As new people come into our fellowship, it is imperative that we get to know them—What do they like to do? What are their hobbies? What are their God-given talents? Only when we actually get to know these new people who come to our worship services, can we begin to “fuse” them into the body, for their benefit and ours!


Amy Florence said...

Tim, I loved your analogy of church visitors to home visitors. Perhaps a service we could offer would be trying to match them up with another person or family in the congregation that is similar to them. I'm thinking of some kind of a mentoring program, whether formal or informal. It feels good to know a friendly face will be there and is looking for you at church the next time you go. I remember back to when I started going to FPC Duncan and one thing that sticks out is that Karen Wilkinson always looked for me each Sunday (we had similar interests in handbells and sign language). Then when I found myself teaching Sunday School a year later, I "adopted" the Martin family (two of our children were the same age). Just a thought.

Rosella said...

That is interesting and I think you are exactly right. The mentoring project is a good idea. Even though it often happens that someone adopts a family, it is good to have a process so it is not left to chance. Falling through cracks is a problem in churches.
Hope you are enjoying the Blessed Church book. Good stuff in it.