From Pastor Drew:
As I write this, I have been with Christ Community Church for only two and a half weeks. During that time, I have been able to meet with many of the people in our wonderful congregation. You have told me about your lives, where you have served in the church and your hopes for the future. I have read some of the histories of this congregation and walked these hallowed halls.
During the interview process, I remember one question in particular. The committee asked, “As it pertains to outreach, what are the first things you are going to do?” I took a second to think about it, and I answered, “I don’t know.” Not exactly a great answer for an interview.
But then I went on, as I typically do, “I don’t know the passions and talents of the congregation. I don’t know the needs of the community directly around the church. I don’t know how our facility could bless our community.” Okay, again, I don’t think I am winning any points for this answer.
Then I got to the part of the answer that might have been okay. I said, “My first few months at the church will be about getting to know the congregation. I want to know their passions, abilities, and talents. That will give me an idea of how we might be able to reach out to our community. Next, I need to get to know our community. Who lives directly around the church building? Who are the people in our community who are unchurched or dechurched? And finally, I need to get familiar with our facility because that will drive what kinds of activities and outreach events we can do.”
This is what I plan on working on this summer—getting to know you, the congregation. If you haven’t had a chance to meet with me one-on-one, I would love that opportunity. I promise not to sign you up for any committees or other volunteer opportunities that day. Next, there you will find me walking through the streets near the church. I want to get to know our neighborhood and see what needs we could help with right away. And finally, if you don’t hear from me for a while, it is probably because I am lost somewhere within our building. I want to get to know the facilities that God has blessed us with and dream about how we might use them to reach new people.
For me, May and June are all about reconnaissance. Learning everything I can about our congregation, community, and facilities so that I can be a champion for our outreach efforts as we reemerge from the pandemic and head into a new ministry year in the fall. I wish I had a quick fix to tell you would work and make hundreds of people show up next week, but I don’t. But I do trust that guided by the Holy Spirit, the leadership of this church, and the membership, we will find what God has called us to do here at the corner of Ionia and Capitol to reach out with Christ’s love, grace, and hope. And when God is with us, we cannot fail.
Please, pray for me, the leadership, and our congregation that God may lead us by Holy Spirit to the ministry that will significantly impact our community and congregation. Pray that God will challenge us to invite our friends, family, and neighbors to join us for worship. Pray that God will open our eyes, ears, and hearts to the hurting people around us.
The other day, I was driving through REO town, a great up-and-coming part of Lansing, when I notice this sign above the door. It reads, “If you don’t know if you’re welcome here; -YOU’RE NOT!” Now, this sign is above the door for a biker bar, but it made me think a couple of things.
First, I am pretty sure that I am not welcome there. I haven’t seen anyone go in or out, but I am sure that I don’t have the right leather to clothe ration in my outfit to make it past the door. And even if I did get inside, I am pretty sure that I won’t know the right way to conduct myself. Now, I am sure that those who know they are welcome find a friendly place. I would imagine that they treat each other like family, for good or for ill. It is easy to feel welcome in a place where you know how to act. Where people speak the same language, where everyone knows the inside details of how things work but going into a place like that can be very intimidating for anyone who doesn’t know the vocabulary or the rituals.
This brought me to my second thought. While I know we would never put this sign above our door at Christ Community Church, are we working to be the most welcoming place we can be? For people who have never been inside a church or have been away from church for a long time, it can be even more intimidating than it would be for me to walk into that biker bar. For many, they are walking into a foreign place that might feel like the people there are speaking a foreign language. They might not know the rituals that we do each week. It is easy for us to get into our patterns and habits and not think about what it might be like for a first-time visitor to experience worship with us.
As we look to revitalize Christ Community Church, we will look for all the ways that we can be as welcoming as possible. Sometimes, it will be explaining why we are doing what we are doing—helping them feel more comfortable in times of communion or prayer or offering or the many other things we do naturally during our worship service. Other times, it will be making sure that there is parking for new visitors that is near the doors, and once they make it inside, we watch for cues on whether they want to be welcomed by everyone or welcomed by only a few and allowed to experience the service on their terms. This will also mean finding new ways of communicating with the people who join us in worship.
As we look with hope to all that God will do in our midst to welcome new people into our congregation, we might think about putting up a sign that reads, “If you don’t know if you’re welcome here; YOU ARE!” Because in Christ, all are welcome to experience God’s love, grace, and hope!