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Greeting newcomers and visitors is a continuing ministry for most congregations. Here's how three churches structure their informal contacts with first-timers.
1. At First Church of God, San Diego, California, gift certificates from a popular ice cream parlor encourage newcomers to join the Sunday evening singles group for an after-meeting treat. Pastor Terry Fisher also encloses the gift certificates in personal letters written to other visitors.
2. Each Sunday Noel Memorial United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana, greets twenty to fifty visitors from all over the city. Within 48 hours someone from the church will deliver a batch of homemade cookies to those visitors' homes.
The church's membership list is computer sorted by Zip Code. Each Monday evening Associate Minister Scott Adams and one volunteer take the visitor list from the previous day and locate church members living in the same Zip Code areas as the visitors. One of those members is asked to deliver cookies, so the goodies arrive in the hand of a neighbor who attends Noel.
A side benefit has been the opportunity to contact inactive members. "This nonthreatening call gives inactives a chance to be involved in the church once again," says Adams, who finds very few members, active or inactive, saying no to the request to deliver cookies.
3. After the sermon at North Highlands Bible Church in Dallas, while the congregation sings a hymn and the offering is taken, visitors are invited to follow Pastor Dennis Eenigenburg out the door to a reception area for refreshments and getting acquainted. Elders, greeters, visitors, and their family members leave with the pastor.
At the reception the pastor greets visitors, tells them about the church, and invites them to Discovery I, a weekly class held during the 11 A.M. worship service. The class runs continuously on a four-week cycle, and leadership is alternated among church elders.
Visitors are also invited to Discovery II, an eight-week small-group ...