A Welcome is not enough

I said in the discussion that welcome is not enough. I think I can now spell out the two other stages that need to happen, one is prior to the welcome, invitation/introduction and the second comes afterwards integration.

Firstly most people are not going to cold call a church for worship! A few, a very few and normally in my experience people who are fairly marginal to society do. The rest when looking for a church, would rather go to one where they know somebody or even know a friend of a friends. So at this stage it means people letting it be known they go to a particular church and speaking of the good things about it. You will notice that personal evangelism can be part of this process but it does not have to be. So a congregation needs to actually spend some time thinking about what it is good at and encouraging people to talk about those things.

I also think that it is quite possible if we want people to cold call our congregations putting up the old fashioned “Public Worship” is more effective than “All welcome”. The thing is that “public” says to people “you have the right to be here”. In a world where more and more public spaces are being privatised that may be an important message to get across. Actually “All Welcome” is very problematic. It is used in many situations where all are not welcome, so people tend to disbelieve it. It sounds desperate, we will take anyone who comes. Nobody particularly wants to belong to an organisation that is desperate for new members.

As for integration that is the real test of inclusiveness. It is very easy for someone to be welcomed the first three or four weeks they attend and then ignored once their face is familiar. This makes becoming part of a congregation very difficult indeed. At this stage people still need someone more familiar with the congregation to befriend them. For instance if it is stated “Please see Jane Bloggs for tickets for the Christmas lunch” they often won’t know who “Jane Bloggs” is even though they have been around for a while. They need to have someone they can ask in a none threatening way. Otherwise they are effectively excluded from these events. That goes further, any idea how hard it is to set up a direct debit, when you don’t know who the giving secretary is, etc. Then their gifts aren’t know to the congregation so often overlooked. There also is a need for pastoral care before they are fully a member and one gift they do have is the ability to see the congregation more as an outsider would than those who have been there for twenty years.

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