Friday, May 26, 2006

Heresy #1: Where to focus re: visitors

I am going to be posting over the next days and weeks some various "heresies" about church growth, church planting, as part of a "what I have learned/unlearned" over the recent years. I will start with a heresy about welcoming visitors to worship............It may not be the most vital heresy but is a good place to start. We need to get out of our box of understanding of what "visitor" means to many of our folks and to think of visitor not just in terms of the worshipping community, but as those who are invited or in some other way meet up with us in mission beyond the worshipping gathering. I try to think of the process of welcome, integration, etc. with all who we go to join with when we are doing something as a community in the world and not just those who come in for the worship experience............I have grown to prefer making contacts when I meet people working on community projects, and to put more energy into that than into what happens in the worshipping community; I have found that their understanding of the church as a place to give and not get seems deeper than with those whom I first encounter in a worship setting. And if they don't come join us, fine; I trust they are telling people about us and the seeds will sprout down the road........For long term health, one of my heresies is that I'd rather (and I try to encourage actually) someone be invited to participate in service project with us or party with us and then learn about and decide to come be a part of "the service" than to present the worshipping community to them as first contact and then hope to connect them socially and in service beyond the worship service. When that happens the worshipping community sometimes, sometimes, becomes about meeting the needs of anyone who might wander in to check us out, and of course for church planting the worshipping community needs to be built up towards rather than the first face, unless you have gobs of financial resources and even then maybe not...I think we have to be careful that we don't try to do big church small when we plant.

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