What happens when people who appear different visit your church? How do members greet people who may not look like them, act like them or have similar clothes as them? As many of our church communities are changing, more and more people may appear who did not grow up in our congregations but who are hungry for the Word of God. Recently I facilitated a focus group sponsored by a church to explore conversations with young adults who now live in this congregation’s community. When the question was asked, “How welcomed did you feel when visiting this church?”, one of participants stated, “It felt that members stared at me. I felt they were thinking who is she and why is her hair that color?” Now, could someone say that about your church?
As the United States turns into a multicultural society, communities are experiencing significant demographic shifts which may be pushing ushers, greeters and church leaders to seek new ways to engage and welcome neighbors. According to 2010 US Census, the United States is bigger, more foreign born, more suburban, less wedded and traditional family structures and more multiracial. One in seven new marriages include spouses of different racial backgrounds. Welcoming people who may speak another language, come from a different style of worship or who are simply younger and less traditional in their interests may be where God has placed your ministry. How do we welcome when the neighborhood has changed?
Hospitality or welcoming strangers is mentioned throughout the Bible. Two examples :, Hebrews 13: 1 reminds us ”Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” Matt. 25:40 Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me. So why do some of our new neighbors experience less than friendly welcomes when they sit in pews?
Welcome to this issue of The A-R-K Report. As I recently prepared “Engaging Changing Communities,” a workshop at the Presbyterian Women Worldwide Gathering in Florida, I am energized and excited to share ideas on ways to welcome and engage newcomers in the community.
Whether you’re on the evangelism team or in the pulpit or pew, let’s take the opportunity to share our Christian love. Let me know what you’re thinking firstname.lastname@example.org
Blessings & Peace,