• Follow-up with New Worshipers


    How do you follow-up with new worshipers in the congregation? Here are two different approaches I have encountered which may be helpful.

    The first is advice from Dr. Kennon Callahan.  At the Mission Leaders Network “Developing Keys to an Effective Church” event at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Roanoke, VA (Sept. 2011), Dr. Callahan suggested the following approach.

    “Don’t send brochures of information. These new worshipers are looking for family, not for information. Help them to know that we can be family together.  In a letter to a new worshiper, you might say:

    Glad we could worship God together this morning. Glad you are a part of the family. As we can be helpful we look forward to doing so. Welcome!

    The second advice comes from the website, Church Marketing Sucks. The article entitled, “How to Use E-mail to Bring Back New Visitors,” discusses setting up an automated system to send a series of emails to people who are new to the congregation. In contrast to Dr. Callahan’s suggestions, this approach provides the new worshipers plenty of information and multiple, less personal contacts. Specifically, the author suggests:

    What to Put In Your Follow Ups

    After you’ve thanked your visitors for stopping by, you’ll want to give them information to make them feel as welcome and comfortable as possible, while at the same time, representing your church accurately. You may want to send:

    • Greetings from your church leadership, with pictures so they can recognize a familiar face if they return.
    • Service, small groups and Sunday School schedules.
    • Stories of what God has been doing in your church.
    • Details about upcoming events (or where to find that info—if you truly automate this process, you want to use content that doesn’t have to be updated every few months).
    • Opportunities to volunteer.
    • Baptism and membership procedures.

    My tendency is to take the approach Dr. Callahan suggests and concentrate on short, simple, welcoming follow-up notes, but as my use of email for follow-up contacts continues to increase, I think I will start to include links in the email that lead people to the types of information suggested in the second article.  Adding a simple, targeted line to the follow-up email like: “You can find out more about how the St. Michael family serves our neighbor on our website” with a link to opportunities for service, could help new worshipers discover their place in our family of faith more easily.

  • Stewardship Letter Advice


    This week I came across helpful advice for for folks who are writing a letter to the congregation about stewardship. The article is from The Columbia Partnership and offers tips for writing a letter that focuses on mission and invites the congregation to support that mission generously. The author, Rubin Swint, offers ten helpful and practical tips. You can read the article at: http://columbiapartnership.typepad.com/the_columbia_partnership/2011/09/the-annual-stewardship-letter.html

  • God is Still Surprising God’s People


    I have discovered that most great ministry ideas are surprises that grow out of our attempt to be faithful servants of God. Almost by accident, we stumble upon an opportunity for ministry.

    As part of the S. C. Lutheran Synod’s “Operation Inasmuch,” based on the scripture that says “In as much as you have done it unto…,” our congregation provided soup, sandwiches and ice cream to two groups about three months ago. One of the groups is composed of around 20 recovering addicts who live in a residential facility about seven miles from our church.

    In appreciation, they showed up for worship the next Sunday. I was really confused when I saw two complete pews of men that I had never seen before. As one member said, “I first thought that’s the largest Pulpit Committee I had ever seen but I thought to myself, why would they be coming to see a retired pastor?”

    I started that Sunday with what I call “100 seconds of fellowship” where people moved around to greet people they did not know. Afterwards, some of the men shared with me that they really felt welcome. Evidently, this was not the case at several other churches they have attended.

    From that beginning, we have tried to work together to help their ministry. On the first Sunday in August, they were our special guests at our homecoming celebration. We are now providing them with bag lunches the second Sunday of each month so that they can get ready quicker for the family visits that only happen on Sunday afternoons.

    I am convinced that God has given us a vision for ministry with this group. We fed them and they dropped in and surprised us at worship. From this beginning, ministry is happening. God is still surprising his people with wonderful opportunities for ministry.

  • As the Bible Says . . .


    It’s not uncommon for people to attribute a saying like “A penny saved is a penny earned” to the Bible. It sounds like good, solid, faithful, Biblical advice to many people. Since the Bible is a big book with lots of sayings, wisdom and advice and since most people haven’t memorized the Bible, it’s just easier to accept someone saying “Well, as the Bible says, a penny saved is a penny earned ” than it is to try and convince the speaker that those words were spoken by Ben Franklin, not Jesus, Moses or King David. A survey I read about this week, however, reminded me that sometimes the mis-identification of quotes goes the other way too.