A long-time lurker on RGBP (my blogging hasn't been consistent enough to join the webring) and so appreciative for this shared ministry!
I am 14 months into my first call, at little-church-in-suburbia. We are starting to attract new worshipers, and it's about time for a new member class (a good problem, right?). The issue seems to be scheduling. We schedule many things on Sundays, since life-in-suburbia is over-scheduled to the max. It's the most viable way of getting decent participation. Midweek events are easily forgotten and compete with kids' schedules (or bedtime for the littlest ones).
Coordinating the schedules of the new folks so we can get *them* in one place at one time has its own complexities. Then, between adult bible study, confirmation class, and council meetings, I have very few options to schedule Sunday morning time with these prospective new members.
So, matriarchs, any suggestions on building Christian community - and building the body of Christ - when people have precious little time to commit? How to set up new member classes to be meaningful and yet compact?
Grace and peace,
A previous church where I was minister had a wonderful influx of ‘new people’ at one stage – they took it upon themselves to meet up for lunch (or just a coffee if pushed for time) after the morning service once a month to discuss the sermon. It helped that one of them was more mature in the Christian journey (but you could always suggest an appropriate person to join the group). I tended to have this group in mind when I was preaching (which I think helped the whole congregation, to be honest); they would sometimes feed back themes they’d like tackled in future sermons. I joined them when I could – but it seemed to be a place of enrichment & growth whether I was there or not (lesson for the minister, there!).
I think what made this group work well was:
A ‘light touch’ group (no extra reading required!)
Related to worship so no sense of ‘baby topics’, it was real stuff
It didn’t depend on any one person to be there – it had a genuine groups dynamic
It was about people following Christ, not church – but it fed people in their life as a church.
I wish I had a group like that going where I am now – maybe I should pray about that??
And Muthah+ offers:
Dear Growing Parish Pastor,
What a wonderful conundrum you have! It IS difficult to schedule newcomers classes these days, but I have found that "If you schedule it, they will come." See if you can connect with the majority of those who have expressed an interest and go for the most amenable time. If other events conflict, see if you can adjust those schedules. Except for board meetings and funerals, Newcomer events take precedence. It is the least we can do when welcoming new folk to the faith.
I have always had some who just can't get to classes on a regular basis due to serious reasons. I will often schedule a dinner meeting with them with a good time for discussing a book I have given them to read. This one-on-one contact a good way to deal with those whose schedules are bizarre. It also makes the connection with the pastor and answers their particular questions.
I have always taught a course in adult education on "What you always wanted to know about being a (Denomination) but have been coming too long to ask" to invite long-term members AND newcomers to share their experience and their questions about the faith. It allows for good discussion from all members and a chance to share faith that they might not always have.
Wise and wonderful thoughts, Matriarchs! Thank you!! What about the rest of you folks? Do you have insight or experience that you might share? Please join the conversation in the comments section.
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