Mess of Pottage Blog

Luke's "Pro" Blog

Driving Away Visitors

I meant to blog about Thom Rainer’s survey of how churches drive away visitors, but hadn’t gotten to it. Now that Chris Thompson mentioned it in a recent ADN blog, so now I’m finally blogging it. I won’t quote the whole article, but here are some impressions I took from it, and my early evaluation about how we might respond.

Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.

I was surprised that the greeting time makes guests uncomfortable, since it’s a part of the service at some churches that seem pretty guest-friendly. We have one, but not as a welcoming device at the beginning of the service. Instead we give it a theological spin as the passing of the peace. In light of how uncomfortable it makes our guests, we should give some thought to how important it is.

Unsafe and unclean children’s area. … If your church does not give a high priority to children, don’t expect young families to attend.

We are working on it, but this is truly one of the areas where we can always be improving.

No place to get information.

This is why we have 400 words of boilerplate information on the back of our Sunday bulletin. I’d like to have more things people can take away. My top two priorities are: a brochure about the church with lots of color pictures, and a brochure about our mission partnerships with lots of color pictures. As an introvert myself, I also want us to have a visitor booth where people can go chat up a single volunteer, instead of having to plunge into the crowd of fellowship time.

Bad church website.

It’s been awhile since I did much with this. I need to raise it in my priorities. I’d like to get more people to visit our Facebook page as well.

Members telling guests that they were in their seat or pew.

Regular attenders need to be aware that if I find out this happens at JLP, I’m going to call them out by name during each of the next three worship services. Or maybe three dozen. By the time they feel safe returning, no one will remember it was “their” seat.

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Christmas Joy

Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;
sing the glory of his name;
give to him glorious praise. …
Come and see what God has done:
he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.
  —Psalm 66:1-2, 5

Christmas is all about joy. The angel told the shepherds not to be afraid, because he brought “good news of great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10).

Even for non-believers, Christmas is a happy time. People give each other gifts. They spend time just thinking about their loved ones, and what sort of gift would be appropriate. They sing songs they love and eat food that’s probably not what the doctor would recommend.

For believers, Christmas is even more joyous. It’s a celebration of the fact that God loves us. God, who knows better than anyone just how unloveable we can be, loves us anyway–and Christmas is the proof. We know that God loves us, because instead of cutting us loose and walking away, he sent Jesus to save us.

That is the fact that makes all the difference. We still have problems, and sometimes our problems can seem almost overwhelming. But God loves us, and that knowledge enables us to face every other challenge with confidence. “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

The fact of Christmas is definitive proof that, no matter who (or what) is against us, God is and always will be “for us.”

It’s easy to forget that. That’s why people began celebrating Christmas. (There’s nothing in the Bible that tells us to do so.) But people wanted to remind themselves every year about this “good news for all the people.”

Do you know someone who might have forgotten that? Someone whose circumstances are so tough that they might think God isn’t for them? Perhaps someone who hasn’t attended church in so long that they’ve forgotten it? Or maybe you know someone who could just use an opportunity to enjoy themselves, hearing the familiar story and singing Christmas carols.

This Christmas, we’re going to have worship services where we can celebrate this “good news of great joy for all the people.” All the people–that means those of us who attend church all the time, and people who don’t.

Creche

I’ll be preaching a series called “Ornaments.” It will take a fresh look at all the familiar parts of the Christmas story. My prayer is that it will be like that moment when you take down the box of Christmas decorations, and smile as you see the one that brings back a special memory.

We’re going to sing all the favorite Christmas carols. If you’ve ever shopped at a department store or a grocery store in November, you’ll know the songs we’ll be singing this December.

This year, even the calendar is cooperating with us. Christmas falls on a Sunday, so if you aren’t able to join us for our Christmas Eve service, join us on Christmas morning instead!

And do bring a friend. The Psalmist invites us to “come and see what God has done.” This is the right time to do it: studies tell us that people are never more willing to accept an invitation to church than at Christmastime. So let’s invite them to join our celebration!

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