SPECIAL PURPOSE VISITATION
PROGRAM INVITATION CALLING
Consider the following possibilities:
* annual vacation Bible school
* summertime backyard Bible Clubs
* a film series such as the Dobson series on the family
* musical programs such as a Christian band to attract youth, an organ concert, organ and choir concert, a concert featuring a well-known soloist, and so on
* an accredited speaker or workshop leader on a topic that meets a known community need such as marriage and family concerns, budgeting and other financial concerns, aging, nutrition, and so on
* a three-, six-, or twelve-week seminar such as the Family Life Series published by Church Development Resources.
* three or four days of crusade-type meetings culminating on a Sunday
In addition, a church may have ongoing activities that are geared to the community or to both the community and the church:
* Sunday school
* boys’ and girls’ clubs
* small-group Bible study such as Coffee Break and Men’s Life
* week-day program for preschool children such as Story Hour
* support groups for single parents, divorced people, the widowed, parents experiencing tough problems with teenagers, Alcoholics Anonymous or Al Anon, and so on
* Parents’ Night Out-offering babysitting one night a week to enable parents to go shopping, see a movie, and so on
* Family Night-a light supper, followed by activities and classes appropriate to various age groups
Churches that begin such activities may find that initially the church has enough contacts to bring out people without a great deal of advertising or visitation. Sooner or later, however, attendance at such activities tends to decrease. At that point the church must ask, “Do we continue this program?” Programs come and go, and no church should continue an activity just because it is always been there or because it was successful at one time. If the program still meets a need in the community, it is time to ask how best to promote the program. Here are some promotion ideas:
* Advertise in the newspaper
* Advertise in the weekly shopper
* Place an advertising insert in the weekly shopper
* Prepare a mailing to the church’s mailing list
* Prepare a mailing and have a mailing service send it to a certain area, zip code or postal code
* Put up notices on supermarket and shopping center bulletin boards’
* Use radio and/or television advertising
* Take advantage of free community events listings in the local newspaper or on radio and television
* Prepare a news story for the local paper and bring it in yourself. It helps if the church has established a good relationship with the newspaper and brings in human interest stories regularly
* Prepare an attractive flyer and make personal visits in the church’s parish area
* Distribute flyers on cars at a nearby shopping center
* Organize a parade with a band and placards. This is especially effective for vacation Bible school in a neighborhood with many children
* Encourage members to bring friends or give names of potential contacts to the appropriate people
Sometimes a visit to promote a certain program will entail registering interested people in the program. Visitors should have a clipboard with registration forms, for example, when the program is the annual vacation Bible school. Even if the parent is not sure that his or her children will be able or willing to attend, try to make a provisional registration and promise to remind them via letter or telephone a few days before the event. Following are suggested ways to introduce yourself after the door opens:
“Good afternoon, I am Diane Stevens from Fellowship Church. We’re letting the neighborhood know that our vacation Bible school starts on Monday, July 12. We’ll be having classes for all children from ages 4 through 12. Would that be of interest to you?”
“Hi, I am Harold Faber from Fellowship Church. We’re having a film series on family life on Sunday evenings and would like to invite you to attend.”
“Hello, I am Sue and this is Carol. We’re from Fellowship Church and want to let you know our Wednesday morning program for women is starting again in a couple of weeks. The complete information is in this pamphlet. We’d be glad to have you.”
When a person expresses interest, explain the program as completely as you can and point to explanations in the pamphlet. If the person intends to participate, stress that a friend or relative can come along. If the event is more than two weeks away, offer to call or write with a reminder (you’ll need to obtain the name and telephone number). If transportation seems to be a problem, offer to provide it. Whenever possible, leave a pamphlet. (Whatever the program is, the pamphlet should stress that the church is willing at any time to talk with people.) Listen carefully to people’s responses to discover whether you or the church can be of help in some way that is quite different from the particular program. This kind of calling is not difficult to do and sometimes whets people’s appetites for a more intensive calling program.
PROGRAM FOLLOW-UP CALLING
Programs that attract the unchurched and the unbelieving must also build relationships. People will be attracted to a program or activity because it fills a need in their lives, but they will keep coming after the need has been filled if they have established satisfying relationships that meet deeper, sometimes unacknowledged needs.
Building relationships should be part of each program. People should be registered at the beginning of the activity and wear name tags so they can address each other by name. If the activity is a film series, for example, those who stand by the door to register people should wear a name tag, along with everyone else in the room, members and guests alike. During refreshments, members should seek out guests and
become acquainted with them. Again, if the activity is a film series, include a short discussion period afterward in which the people disperse into small groups led by a trained member of the church. The leader should seek to draw everyone into the discussion without forcing or embarrassing them. Welcome opinions; don’t make anyone’s contributions sound stupid or outrageous.
This kind of relationship-building may lead a guest not only to return for the remainder of the series but also to attend worship. People are more likely to come to church if during the film series they have become acquainted with a church member who extends an invitation to worship.
A follow-up visit is in order for all those who attend a special program. People should be trained for this visit, even if the training is simple. It is best if the caller is someone who was at the activity and who met the guest. Then the follow-up visit can be seen as a continuation of the relationship started earlier.
The first visit should concentrate on getting to know the person and discovering ways the church may care for that person.
The second visit should reach deeper, exploring the person’s spiritual background. Where possible, begin to explain the Christian faith by talking about the church’s beliefs or by giving personal testimony.
The third visit may include a specific invitation to become a child of the heavenly Father by faith in Jesus Christ.
The fourth visit can explore the meaning of a faith commitment and the call to Christian service.
It is possible to cover all these items in a first visit if there is unusual openness and receptivity. Callers should keep in mind that their aim is to build friendship-first with the caller, then with Christ. A series of shorter visits is usually more effective than one or two long visits. Experienced visitors learn to read the signs that make the longer visits possible.
A helpful guide on visitation of this kind is found in
Kennon L. Callahan’s Twelve Keys to an Effective Church (Harper
& Row, 1983), pages 11-23.
NEW RESIDENT VISITATION
People become receptive to the gospel and the church when they experience life’s transitions-those events that upset normal living patterns and cause people to feel a sense of loss or to ponder the meaning of life. Such transitions come with the loss of a spouse by death or divorce, loss of one’s job, the birth of a child, the last child leaving the home, and so on. One such transition is the move to a different neighborhood or a different city. Such moves often come with other transitional events such as the birth of a child, a job
promotion, divorce, or retirement. Whether the move is traumatic or relatively routine, people experience a loss of roots and of the familiar routines of life. Frequently, moving means finding a new circle of friends. All of this means that such people may be very open to a friendly visit from the church that offers caring, understanding, and the potential for new relationships. How many people move each year? Currently, people move on the average every five years. This is an average! In some neighborhoods the rate of transition is much higher, in others lower. But the number of people who move each year is so large that entire industries have sprung up around this phenomenon. It is big business and presents a significant opportunity to the church. Some denominations do not have an effective method of transferring members from one congregation to another. This means the church in the new location may never hear about the
person who moved and therefore cannot make an effort to welcome this person as a transfer member. In addition, nearly all churches have felt the loss in denominational loyalty. Members who move to a different community no longer automatically search out their denomination but instead look for a church that meets
their needs. A vital and healthy congregation is likely to attract transfer members from a variety of denominational backgrounds.
Research also shows that many church members who move become church dropouts. They may have every intention of finding a church, but in the busyness of moving and getting settled they never get around to it. Sometimes they visit one or two churches, find they are not warmly received, and decide to stay away or become part of the electronic church. People who move after their last child has finished high school are particularly prone to drop out of church in this way. All denominations experience problems of this kind; the larger the denomination, the greater the problem. The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. is the Southern Baptist Church. This denomination reports that 29 percent of its membership (over 4 million members) are non-resident members who have moved and apparently never joined elsewhere. In a religious census such people will probably identify themselves as Southern Baptist even though they no longer attend or attend only very sporadically.
All of this indicates that visiting new residents is a potentially fruitful work that not only adds to the kingdom harvest but preserves the harvest as well. Churches beginning a new visitation program do well to start here.
How to Find New Residents
You may have to explore a variety of ways to discover who the new residents in your community are.
In some towns and cities anyone can ask the local utility company for a list of recent utility hook-ups. A monthly visit to the utility company keeps a new resident visitation program amply supplied with new contacts. In other places this may not be possible. You may have to purchase a list of names from a company that specializes in this. Two such companies in the U.S. are:
Dataman Information Services Group Reaching the Newcomer
1140 Hammond Dr., Suite B. 2140 B.F. Productions, P.O.. Box 640
Atlanta, GA 30328 Grapevine, TX 76051
(404) 395-0694 (817) 488-8535
A member of the church who runs a business may be able to provide a list of new residents for the church. A local realtor may be willing to share such a list of names. A business such as Welcome Wagon may be willing to add the church’s literature to its welcome packet, though it appears in most places that this is not possible. Whatever your situation, digging for a source of these names is well worth the effort!
How to Contact New Residents
There are three ways to contact new residents: by mail, by phone, and in person. Some churches use all three methods. Timing is a very important factor, however, since the church looks inept when it contacts a person six or more months after the move. Because it usually takes a little while before the names of new residents appear on various lists, contact should be made soon as possible. It is a good idea to start with a letter that welcomes the people to the community and invites them to become acquainted with the congregation. The letter should not dwell heavily on doctrinal beliefs but on the relational benefits of
belonging to a church. You might also enclose a pamphlet describing the church.
Next, try to telephone new residents. Remind them of the letter that was sent and ask if they have any questions about the church or its activities. The purpose of the telephone call is primarily to determine whether a visit is indicated. Be sure to ask if a visit would be welcome; you can make a specific appointment or keep the time purposely vague. Suggest, for example, “We usually visit on Wednesday evenings-would that be convenient for you in the next couple of weeks?”
With a large list of new residents every week or every month (some communities have hundreds of new residents every month), the above method may be the most efficient. In some cases the church intends to visit every new resident but precedes the visit with a letter which says, “In the next few weeks we expect to stop by and get acquainted personally. We hope you’ll give us the privilege of a few minutes of conversation.” Or, “Fellowship Church would like to present you with a little gift to welcome you to our community. We hope to stop by soon and get acquainted.”
Be sure you deliver what you’ve promised. If the letter indicates a visit of “a few minutes,” be prepared to stay no longer than ten minutes; use that opportunity to demonstrate care and concern and to inquire about church background. If the letter indicates a gift, give it-even if the new resident is not interested in the church at this time. One church gives a little praying hands statue for this purpose and puts the name of the church with address and telephone number on a sticker. Other churches give a city map with the location, address, and telephone number of the church prominently indicated. The most personal visit is from a member in the immediate neighborhood who comes along with a trained caller. The best gift in such a case is a food item.
The First Visit
The first visit is, in many ways, the most important visit, since first impressions can be given only once. The
callers should identify themselves and their church and remind the householder of the letter he or she received. They can ask, “Would this be a good time for us to come in?” or “Could you spare ten minutes of your time to talk with us?” Once the person indicates that this is a good time, focus the conversation on
their concerns: “Welcome to Oakview Heights-I want to assure you we don’t have weather like this all the time. How is the move coming?” Or, `Are you getting settled all right? It’s hard to find everything in a new neighborhood, isn’t it?” Then listen and respond with caring concern. Somewhat later in the conversation ask, “Did you attend a church before you moved here?” If the person was an active member of another denomination, it is certainly appropriate to suggest where a church of that denomination can be found. Be
familiar with the church scene in your own community. At the same time, it is not inappropriate to invite such a person to your own church. Be sure to at least leave written information about your congregation.
The Second Visit
The nature of the second visit depends on what the callers have learned during the first visit. An accurate record of that first visit is important, especially if the caller promised to respond to a particular need or question. Sometimes it’s more effective if the second visit is made by someone who has several things in common with the new resident. At this time, the caller can highlight some of the church’s activities
and give a specific invitation to attend one of these activities, accompanied by someone from the congregation. The visitor can offer, “Would it be convenient for me to pick you up?” or “I’ll wait for you by the entrance right off the parking lot. We can sit together.”
The Third Visit
Again, follow up on anything that may have been said or promised during the second visit. This time the visit may include conversation regarding your own or the new resident’s spiritual journey. Visitors trained in Evangelism Explosion, Congregational Evangelism Training, or Night of Caring may want to use one of these methods, provided the relationship has progressed sufficiently to permit a conversation based on
friendship, not on sales technique.
New residents may decide to visit a Sunday worship service without telling the people who have been doing the calling. Callers should keep an eye out for familiar faces in the worship services. If the church does a good job of identifying worship visitors, the “prospect card” (a better name would be “friendship record”) will note that this person has already received a visit from church members. A new team of callers would be embarrassed to call on this person without knowing he or she had previously been visited.
Using the Mail Effectively
If you send a letter to each new resident, avoid sending form letters. Type out each letter individually if at all possible and have the pastor sign it personally. The letter is more likely to be read and taken seriously if handwritten by a member who signs it and who also writes out the envelope and places a commemorative stamp on the envelope.
MAILING FOLLOW-UP CALLING
One effective way to reach a large segment of your community is to send out a church mailing. A regular mailing, done at least quarterly, communicates a caring attitude, maintains contact and a positive image, gives visibility to the church, and reaches people in crisis. You can choose several kinds of mailing-from a single sheet prepared by the church to an elaborate eight-page tabloid prepared by an outside agency. For a full description of mailing pieces, how to send them, and to whom, see “Reaching Your Community by Mail” published by Church Development Resources. A mailing program cannot stand on its own as an
evangelistic effort. It is intended as part of a more elaborate strategy to reach as many people as possible in as many ways as possible. Mailings should usually include some kind of follow-up. One way to follow up is to insert a response card in the mailing, preferably with the church’s name pre-printed and the return postage paid. The card might include responses such as
I would like to know more about Fellowship Church.
I would like a visit from the church.
I would like to have a Bible.
I would like to enroll in a free Bible correspondence course.
I need transportation to come to church.
Response cards could be included in each mailing or at less frequent intervals.
Another way to follow up is to call on homes that receive the mailing. Though a church can hardly follow up a mailing of 25,000 pieces with personal visits, it can follow-up a small mailing of 500 to 1,000 in this way, even if it takes two years of systematic calling on one Sunday afternoon a month. Church members should carry a sample of the mailing as a conversation starter: “Hello, I am Evelyn and this is Al. We’re from Fellowship Church and send you this paper every other month. Do you remember receiving it?” Or “Do you read our mailing?” “Is there anything you’d like to know about the church?” “Is there anything we could do for you or your family?” The callers should also carry pamphlets with information about the church; if possible, they should offer a free Bible as well. The purpose of such visits is not first of all to present the gospel but to determine people’s receptivity. If the opportunity arises to present the gospel, that is wonderful. But if church members discover that the persons they are talking to are open to further conversation, they might arrange a return visit for some serious conversation or offer to pick them up for
church the next Sunday or for a weekday Bible study or other activity. In some cases they should feel free to ask, “Would you appreciate a visit from our pastor?” Lane Avenue Church in Kansas City, Missouri, sends an eight-page tabloid to nearly 3,000 of its neighbors. Recently four teenagers volunteered their time to assist in the church’s summer program. The pastor trained them to recruit, teach, and follow up on the vacation Bible school. As part of their follow-up, the young people conducted a survey on readers of the
tabloid, which is called “Lane Avenue Perspective.” The survey sheet asked the following questions:
1. Do you read “Lane Avenue Perspective”? If so, what do you like about it?
2. In your opinion, are people basically good or evil?
3. In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?
(a) Teacher and philosopher (d) Myth
(b) Prophet (e) Philosophical ideal
(c) Son of God (f) Other
4. How do you feel about your personal goals and the direction of your life right now?
(a) Very satisfied (d) Somewhat unsatisfied
(b) Satisfied (e) Very unsatisfied
5. Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you know for sure you have eternal life?
(c) I have doubts.
(d) No one can know for sure.
6. What do you think is the central message of the Bible?
7. Are you an active member of a local church?
8. Whether or not you go to church, at what time would you prefer the Sunday morning worship service to take place!
9. What can our church be doing to meet needs in the community?
The pastor reported that about half of the people called on were willing to answer the questions. Of those, 45 percent read “Lane Avenue Perspective.” The team found that the survey led to many interesting conversations, some of which will lead to further visits.
One immediate result of the survey was valuable input for sermon topics and the discovery that there were many single parents in the community. As a result, the next edition of the tabloid will offer a free book on single parenting.
INACTIVE MEMBER VISITATION
Every denomination and nearly every congregation has members who are no loner active in the congregation. Though at one time these members came regularly to Sunday worship and participated in other church activities, they have now dropped out of the church. In a single congregation the number of such people may be few, but the total number of such members of all denominations in Canada and the U.S. is very large. For example, there are about 15 million inactive Roman Catholics in the U.S. The largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. reports nearly three million inactive resident members-people who have not moved away but who have not been active in the church for twelve successive months. Total figures for inactive members vary; it is safe to estimate, however, that there are at least one hundred million inactive church members in the U.S. and Canada. Such people are often called church dropouts. Add to this number the nominal or marginal church members (people who attend church very sporadically), and it becomes evident that inactive members make up a large group of people who need to be ministered to and, in many cases, evangelized.
Who Are the Dropouts?
Some denominations emphasize teaching the children so that they can be confirmed and become fully participating members. The United Church of Canada frequently confirms children when they enter their teenage years. But the United Church recognizes that all too often this is the point at which the children also drop out of church. The Christian Reformed Church in North America is known for its emphasis on youth activities and catechetical instruction for its young people. A large percentage of these become and remain active members of the church. But the denomination has a hard time holding onto young people who have not become professing members by high school graduation. These young adults drop out of the church’s educational program and, frequently, out of the church altogether.
It is the hope and prayer of parents and churches that such young people will begin to remember their upbringing by the time they marry or have their first child. And indeed some return to church at that time. But others do not. Many others besides young people become alienated from the church.
In general, dropouts are excluded from Christian service by their response to life disruptions, religious burnout, and church fights. Persons who are prime candidates to drop out of local churches include
* Persons who don’t like their new pastor
* New high school graduates
* Persons who didn’t like the way the last pastor left
* Single youth
* Persons who have recently moved
* Empty-nest couples
* Persons who were wounded in congregational conflicts
* Religious burnout’s
* Persons whose life patterns have been seriously disrupted
* Viewers of the electronic church.
(Robert D. Dale and Delos Miles, Evangelizing the Hard-to- Reach, Broadman Press.)
Some research indicates that nearly half of American church members become inactive at some time during their lifetime. The same research also shows that 80 percent of these dropouts become active members again some time later-even if it is not in the same congregation or denomination where formerly
they were members (see David A. Roozen, “Church Dropouts: Changing Patterns of Disengagement and Re-entry,” Review of Religious Research, 21, Supplement 1980, pp. 427-450). Even though the rate of disengagement from church is high, the rate of return is an encouragement for the church to remain in pastoral and evangelistic ministry with these people and work consistently to effect their return.
How Members Drop Out
Studies have shown that members who drop out of church frequently rationalize their decision and feel the church is at least as much at fault as they are, since the church has given them permission to drop out. Their stories often follow a common pattern. Here are two hypothetical examples. Craig and Amanda Donker’s third and last child, Julie, graduated from high school in June and took a summer job to earn
some college money. She moved in with some friends. Craig and Amanda celebrated this new stage in their life by taking most of the summer off for travel and vacation. During the entire summer it never seemed convenient to attend church. When September came around they drove Julie to college and resumed their normal working lives. Somehow the initiative to get up for church on Sunday morning was gone, and for several weeks they didn’t even discuss it. When finally they did talk about it, Amanda said, “This may sound strange, but I haven’t even missed church. We’ve been so busy and it seems nice to have the Sunday just for ourselves.” Craig replied that he thought the pastor or someone else from the church should have called on them by now. “After all the work we’ve done for the church over the past years, you’d think they would miss us. But nobody has even made a phone all.” Before long, resentment over the church’s negligence set in, and three months later the Donkers were firmly settled in their churchless life-style.
Paul and Cynthia Greene both grew up in Christian families and had been active participants in the church for many years. They had two children who were involved in youth clubs and religious education at their church. Paul and Cynthia were good friends of the pastor and his wife. The church, unfortunately, was divided on the direction the church was taking, and the pastor was at the center of the controversy. Before long the issue was no longer the church’s direction but the pastor’s leadership or lack of leadership. As a result, the pastor left. Paul and Cynthia were upset and discouraged and decided they needed some breathing room. Instead of attending church, they watched their favorite television preacher. At first they send the children to Sunday school, but before long the children too became “members” of the electronic church. The whole family enjoyed the ritual of a leisurely Sunday morning together, part of it in the den in front of the television. The elders of the church noted the family’s absence but agreed that, indeed, some breathing room was probably the best thing. Besides, they were busy unifying the church and calling a new pastor. Before anyone realized it, the Greenes had not been in church for over a year and no one had talked to them about it. Paul and Cynthia decided it was probably best for everyone’s peace of mind not to return to church at all. They blamed the church for ruining the pastoral career of a friend and found they could do without the hassles of active membership.
The best solution to the dropout problem is prevention.
Such prevention may be practiced in three areas.
1. A majority of North American Christians feel a Christian need not be a member of any particular church. Christianity has become a private religion: “I can be a good Christian and not go to church. As long as I believe and try to be as good as the next person, I don’t need organized religion.” Such people do not necessarily quarrel with the church; they are, in fact, often members of a congregation. They agree that the church is useful and may be necessary for some people. It just is not necessary for them.
The Bible, however, knows nothing of such a solitary position. Central to the Christian faith is one’s relationship with both Jesus Christ and his body. Christ and the church are inseparable. The church is part of God’s design for the new creation. Believers who choose not to be actively involved with Christ’s body are practicing a distortion. The Belgic Confession, to which many Reformed churches throughout the world
subscribe, says of the church,
We believe that since this holy assembly and congregation is the gathering of those who are saved and there is no salvation apart from it, no one ought to withdraw from it, content to be by himself, regardless of his status or condition. But all people are obliged to join and unite with it, keeping the unity of the church by submitting to its instruction and discipline, by bending their necks under the yoke of Jesus Christ, and by serving to build up one another, according to the gifts God has given them as members of each other in the same body. And so, all who withdraw from the church or do not join it act contrary to God’s ordinance. One way to prevent dropouts is to frequently teach and demonstrate the corporate nature of the Christian faith.
2. A second means of preventing church dropouts is to stress the importance of small-group activity in the congregation. Every member should consider it not only a joy to attend worship services but also to belong to at least one small group, where more intimate fellowship and mutual caring can take place. This is becoming increasingly important, since along with the North American trend to individualism comes the trend to large churches. The large church has many advantages, but its members remain largely anonymous in large Sunday crowds. The larger the church, the more important a good small-group
ministry is. Small groups can meet for fellowship or Bible study or a specific ministry. But all small-group members, including those in the choir and church school classes, should be trained by the leadership to exercise mutual care, pray for one another (especially during times of need), and encourage one another. At the first sign of a member’s dropping out, the small-group ministry is crucial in helping that member experience the full power of the communion of the saints.
3. Finally, members in process of dropping out should be visited within the first six weeks. Research by LEAD Consultants has shown that the best time to reclaim disaffected members is within six to eight weeks. During this time the potential dropouts are in fact waiting for the church to pay attention to them so that they can talk about whatever is bothering them. After this initial two-month period it is much more difficult to re-involve such members.
Visiting inactive members requires patient listening and loving care. The church must be careful to avoid attitudes and language that say, “You ought to know better” or “You are being unfaithful to your promises” or “If only you had said something, we would have visited sooner.” These members often feel guilty
as it is; making them feel more guilty will make them angry or more hopeless. Frequently such members have gone through conflicts and feel considerable pain at having lost the fellowship of the church. But they will rarely share their true feelings upon a first (or even second and third) visit. The church must be prepared, therefore, to establish considerable trust before it can discover the real issues. Some people who have visited inactive members have had to listen to considerable anger and accusations against the church. It takes maturity and love not to accuse in return but to remain calm and non-defensive and admit that the church frequently must still learn to live by the law of love it preaches.
Sometimes callers assume that members who have dropped out of church have also dropped out of the faith. However, most inactive members testify that they are still believers. Callers should respect such people’s position and treat them as fellow believers who need to be ministered to, rather than as unbelievers who need to be evangelized. It is important to stifle the urge to tell church dropouts that the faith of inactive members is frequently weak. Church dropouts are more likely to be won back by faith that issues in love than by preaching that demands faith as a response. What about drop-outs from other congregations? Churches that are active in their neighborhoods will often come across inactive members of other congregations. Such people should be treated with the same respect and patience as members of your
own congregation. It is not helpful to agree with accusations against another church or to compare your church to another. [f after one or more visits it becomes apparent that the inactive members are ready to enter a church fellowship again, feel free to invite them to your own church after asking whether they would like to return to their former congregation. This is not “sheep stealing,” but rather winning back a wandering sheep into what is ultimately the one flock of our Lord. Sometimes an inactive member will
feel more comfortable in an entirely new congregation. And most congregations will be happy to hear that an inactive member has again become established in another Christian congregation.