St. Luke’s community in meaningful ways.
Something to Consider
Our Community Focus
The focus of Forward in Faith is to connect our church to the community and engage new families in an effort to grow St. Luke’s in meaningful ways. In the past two months I have attended two conferences that spoke to that specific goal. In April, Megan Warren, Lynne McAlexander, Beth Ryan, Amber Wofford, and I attended a conference in Atlanta that was all about community and engaging your neighborhood. We heard speakers from different churches that shared ideas on how to get out of our doors to build bridges instead of fences.
Second, I attended the Memphis Annual Conference, June 4-6, as a delegate for St. Luke’s. Bishop McAlilly focused the entire conference on the message of “Sent to Serve – God and Neighbor.” During the opening session on Sunday evening he shared these words with us, “God is a missionary God and we are a missionary people,” to which he later added, “As a baptized Christian, our central purpose is to be on a mission.” McAlilly asked church members if they are about having a missional mindset or about consuming goods and services. The future depends on the mindset that is chosen, he said.
The two teaching sessions on Tuesday during conference were “Imagining the Possibilities” and “God’s Misfit Mission” presented by Rev. Scott Chrostek, pastor of the downtown campus of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (Resurrection Downtown) in Leawood, Kansas. He spoke about how he grew a church from 9 very committed people to a congregation of over 1000 in 6 years. He came to realize it was about meeting people where they are and creating a shared understanding that “church” is not a place to which one goes. He said Resurrection Downtown has five principles that guide its mission and ministry, based on the acronym FOCUS:
Focus on always intentionally looking at the world around us.
Own it: our circles of influence and comfortable places.
Create a culture of invitation.
Use all available media by connecting with as many people as possible and going where people are.
Stay open to interruptions.
Stressing the importance of being “outside the church” and “breaking free from the regular rhythms of church,” Chrostek said those concepts are not difficult to grasp and follow when one accepts that God’s love “makes sense out of nonsense,” turns “nothing to something” and transforms “death to life.”
During both of these conferences I knew that I was hearing the call of God to encourage us, the St. Luke’s family, to move out of our comfort zones and be the feet of Christ to our neighborhood. I admit that it is not easy. It is so much easier to be in our Sunday School class or Sanctuary Pew and just greet those around us, but that is not what we are called to do. Jesus and his disciples did not have a favorite pew in a sanctuary. So here is a challenge – next time you are in the neighborhood, no matter where or what you are doing, introduce yourself to someone in line or your server at a restaurant, engage them in a conversation about where they work or live. Once you have a connection you can tell them about your church family, maybe ask them if they have a prayer request. You don’t have to pray with them – just let them know that there is a church community that will be praying for them. It will not be easy for many of us, including me, but I have confidence that God is going to present me with these opportunities because that’s just how God is. In fact there are several opportunities in the current Epistle for you to get involved and step out in our community to volunteer.
I share these insights for two reasons: One – I want all of us to be intentional in sharing our faith and finding a way that is comfortable for each of us. Second – I want the St. Luke’s family to know that Annual conference is not just about sending a few delegates to represent our church on a vote but it is also about a gathering of disciples who worship and learn and share together. The worship and teaching sessions are open to whomever would like to attend. They are very enriching and it is important that we as United Methodists work together to make disciples and share Christ with a hurting world.
To know more about the happenings at Memphis Annual Conference you may link to the webpage:
www.memphis-umc.net/ and click on the “Wrap-Up Story” in the left column.
(Some items in this article are quoted from the Wrap-Up Story by Lane Gardner Camp.)
The second quarter newsletter is here: April 2017 2nd Quarter
Inside you will find the updates of what’s moving forward in faith.
20 Ways to Welcome People to Church
THE PEACE PASTOR August 2013
The following is a list of ways congregations, and more specifically you as a member of a congregation, can love any and all who walk through your doors. This list is adapted from the book Now Go Forward by J. David Eschelman, who says, “Loving unbelievers the way Jesus did is the most overlooked key to growing a church…The command to love is the most repeated command in the NT, appearing at least 55 times.”
1. Every church member is a host & not a guest. Making visitors feel welcome is primarily the responsibility of members, not the nebulous “church.”
2. The most important person for a visitor to talk to in order to feel at home in a new church is you. It is not the pastor, or the greeter, but a regular attender. Eshleman says “One of the most impressive gestures we can extend to first time visitors is for people with no official position to take the initiative and welcome them.”
3. Treat first time visitors as guests of God, not strangers.
4. Smile at everyone and offer your hand.
5. Look people in the eye and smile.
6. Take the initiative, don’t wait for visitors to initiate conversation with you.
7. Learn people’s names and remember them.
8. Use [only] appropriate and allowed Touch such as a hand shake or a gentle pat on the back.
9. Ask questions & learn about your guests. It is better to express interest in them than it is to try to “sell” your church.
10. Listening is a very effective way to show love.
11. Greet children at their level.
12. Let children be children. Yes, families love children’s church and child care. We also love it when you allow us to decide if our children should remain with us in worship. And even more, when you love our kids as kids (crying, playing, singing!) and don’t expect them to be grown-ups.
13. Invite visitors to join you at something, anything! Invite them to today’s fellowship meal, next Sunday’s Christian Education hour, or to a restaurant for some “one on one” time.
14. Never let new people sit alone. Eschelman says, “New people should never have to sit alone. Take initiative and go to them without delay.”
15. Help visitors find seating that suits their families needs.
16. Help first time visitors by being their tour guide and helping them find worship resources. Visiting a new church is like a cross-cultural experience, even for those of us who have visited dozens of other churches.
17. Invite people to fill out your church’s visitor registration card or information.
18. Tell people you’re glad they are here – no need to joke about a long absense. (ex. college students & returning friends)
19. Pray for them throughout your week.
20. Be yourself! You are loving! You have a good thing going! You have the capacity to love more people, & to love more deeply. Eschelman says, “Practice making people feel special, & what you give to others will be returned to you.”
For more information on the Forward in Faith initiative contact Megan Warren – email@example.com
Forward in Faith Team
The Forward in Faith team wants to make every effort to communicate frequently with our Church family. Look for articles in the Epistle, announcements, quarterly newsletters, Church Council reports, or just talk to us in person.
At this time, we’ve had two newsletters published in the Epistle: January 23 and April 3. You may link to the most recent one above.
Should you have any questions or ideas for Forward in Faith, please feel free to contact one of the members. The members include the following:
Megan Warren – Director of Community Connections
Although the above people meet monthly to discuss moving forward, St. Luke’s – the entire church – is a part of this endeavor. Opinions, feedback, ideas, solutions, prayers from everyone make this committee and the work we are called to do, the best it can be. We all want to see St. Luke’s grow and remain viable in the future and that must include fresh ideas, renewed passions, growing pains, and YOU. We’re thankful for your involvement and your love for St. Luke’s.
Continue to pray constantly for St. Luke’s to be a place where our lives and our community will be transformed. Consistently pray for God to help us carry out the Great Commission and to help people know Christ.