How To Prepare For Back-To-School Crowds
By David Martin Sr.
Pastors know the three times of the year churches can count on a spurt of growth in their congregations: Easter, New Year’s (following resolutions about returning to corporate worship), and back to school time each fall.
Church Central Associates’ Church Health Encyclopedia addresses the issue of welcoming guests as part of evangelism, fellowship, and ministry (three of the six purposes of the church). A healthy congregation encourages members to prioritize welcoming others.
According to the Encyclopedia, after attending the same church for a while, most members forget what it feels like to enter a new church for the first time.
Church leaders must help members remember to welcome new people.
Two ways to accomplish this include: 1. Emphasize the greeter ministry; and 2. Provide a simulation exercise.
Mentioning and highlighting your greeter ministry regularly reminds church members that new people may be at each church service. If they are reminded regularly, members are more likely to make an effort to be outgoing and welcoming.
Help your church members remember what it feels like to walk into a new place by creating a simulation exercise. Invite shifts of church members to an off-campus location for a meeting. Tell them only that the meeting is about the church. When members arrive, have them sit at designated tables where they do not know each other (as much as possible). Use this method to help members remember what it feels like to talk into a strange place where they do not know exactly what will happen and they do not know anybody else.
After you reveal the purpose of the meeting, have each table make a list of what they felt coming to the meeting. Relate their feelings to what someone coming to your church for the first time might feel. Then, have the church members develop ways to alleviate some of those feelings for a new person at your church. Ideas might include:
* Sitting by the new person
* Finding the sermon Scripture passage in the Bible for the visitor
* Inviting the guest to lunch or dinner after the service
* Helping the guest find the nursery, restroom, etc.
* Greeting the new person kindly with a smile
* Asking the visitor if the member can pray for him or her about anything in particular
Continuing to foster a welcoming church can help keep a congregation focused outwardly, on the needs of others. Church leaders who find themselves dealing with a church that has turned inward and is no longer reaching the surrounding community can mitigate this trend by instructing on the purposes of the church.
If you sense that your church has lost its understanding of what the church is supposed to be and do, consider a sermon series or other teaching vehicle to communicate the purposes of the church: worship, prayer, discipleship, ministry, fellowship and evangelism. Then, use your results from the Church Health Survey to draw attention to areas in which you can begin to work.
This article “How To Prepare For Back To School Crowds” by David Martin Sr. is excerpted from Church Central Newsletter, Aug. 2008.