“Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me,
and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” Luke 9:48
Pastor’s Column: More Than Welcoming
In late August our Church Leadership Team (CLT) gathered for our fall program review to cover all God has before us as we move into the last four months of 2018. There was much to highlight, from annual events like Friendsgiving and the Vine Maple Place Christmas Party, to class kickoffs like the three Women’s Studies, new seasons for Children’s Church, Youth Groups and Club 56, and a renewed emphasis on a food drive and some new fellowship opportunities. God has a lot before us!
But one of the critical conversations among leadership that night was how we as a faith fellowship are doing when it comes to welcoming newcomers and indoctrinating new people into the life of our congregation. It has been suggested by some recent newcomers that Cornerstone is friendly, that we feel like “home,” but that we’re also a pretty hard group of people to get to know beneath the surface. We’re welcoming, but we’re not great at going deeper – that is, creating relationships and friendships and growing in connection with the people around us. Rather, as is the case with so many churches, singles, couples or families can come to us, come to our services, worship and pray and sing, and then go home — and come away without feeling like they got to know us better. And vice versa.
Currently we rely heavily on newcomers plugging themselves in to our ministries. We host open fellowship gatherings (we just had a season full of them, from the Block Party, to the Softball BBQ, to Lazy F retreat), we ask for folks to “sign up” to serve or to gather. But as was pointed out at CLT – not everyone is comfortable taking those steps.
Meanwhile, other than our pastors and our hospitality team, we do not have any designated outreach people. And if Pastor James is the only one to learn someone’s name, folks figure that out pretty quick.
Once upon a time Cornerstone actually had a paid position to assist with this work, and we discussed whether that would be a good move going forward. It could also be a volunteer with a heart for getting to know both the people we have and to spot folks who are new. We recognize we MUST improve in this area – both in welcoming, and in indoctrination.
I invite those with a passion for growing our church to reach out and talk with me. How has your experience been in connection here at Cornerstone? Do you know the people around you on a Sunday morning? Can you identify who is new? Would you like to help us in the vital work of growing our community? I’ll point out under this umbrella that our Ministry Fair is coming this Sunday the 9th – that’s a great opportunity to plug into our greeters/hospitality team, or Share team who does more community outreach.
We are known as a friendly group who love God, love worship, and are trying to be more active in serving our neighbors. But we also need to develop a culture where any of our people can become ambassadors for the Church – reaching out to those around us we don’t know. This cannot be the work of a small team or of a select few. Welcoming, drawing in and creating new relationships – that is the work of all church members.
This is a real need for us. I hope you’ll join me in developing a new approach, and taking intentional steps in changing our culture from just friendly – to becoming a true center for disciple-making.
Grateful to be on the journey together,
Pastor James Murphy