The fall season is busy with events happening in our lives and the lives of our churches. Many congregations have celebrated Homecoming Sunday, Back-to-Church Sunday or Rally Day to invite past and present members to come back to church for worship, fellowship and Christian education classes….and not to come alone.
Hopefully, many members are using this season as an opportunity to invite non-members–whether family, friends, colleagues or even strangers–home to their churches for worship, Bible study or special events. Fall is, after all, a season of harvest; and there is a plentiful harvest of souls we encounter daily who yearn for more meaningful, righteous and uplifting lives. All most of them need is an invitation.
Our churches are activities driven, but many of our neighbors may not know of or be attracted to what our churches have to offer. The sense of obligation to attend Sunday worship no longer prevails. Once active members have become inactive. Some were disappointed or hurt by negative things they experienced or observed in church.
It is also true that when visitors come we often do a poor job of making them feel at home. Beyond our friendly smiles and handshakes, we may not communicate clearly that we care about who they are and why they came. And we may not demonstrate truly welcoming, radical hospitality.
‘Our churches can truly become communities of love and hope’
Especially now, when church is not a first priority nor the only place of refuge from life’s struggles, it is important that we do all we can to reach out and draw in people by expressing–in words and deeds–our genuine love and care for their lives. We must offer them a life-changing communion with Christ and with true believers who will share in their faith-journeys.
We all know that people need God to deal with many challenges they face. If our churches can truly become communities of love and hope, people will want to come and then come back. And for those who don’t, we should try to find out why.
You might discover some of those reasons why at our next conference faith-sharing event on March 21, 2015, at New Hanover UMC (9 am to 2.30 pm, lunch included). Thom and Joani Schultz, co-authors of the book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore: And How 4 Acts of Love Will Make Your Church Irresistible, among other creative resources, will help us explore what works, doesn’t work and can work to stimulate people’s interest, involvement and investment in our churches as their preferred place of spiritual and social development.
I hope and pray many of you will choose to come and benefit from this exciting event. Those who need CEUs can get them as well as the evangelism training experience required for clergy. We want to see every congregation represented at this event, preferably in teams. Registration and more information will be available soon.
Thom and Joani are great presenters and innovative thinkers who love the church. You will enjoy them and learn much about the changes happening in our culture today and how your church can respond.
May God bless you, and may you all have a bountiful fall harvest!
by The Rev. Dr. Christopher J. Kurien
The Rev. Dr. Christopher J. Kurien is Eastern PA Conference Director of Connectional Ministries.