It's January

LeValley & Berlin Center News

It's January, so it's check-in time with our visitors, newcomers, and, after months of worshiping on-line only, those for whom worshiping from home has become a habit. It’s almost as if we are two new-church starts and we need to work at growing our congregations.

You might say, “Visitors and newcomers? Even members of the church or regular attendees can’t worship in person.” That has been true for the last several months as we have navigated through the COVID-19 pandemic, but people are now being vaccinated and, hopefully, cases will slowly diminish, so we are resuming in-person worship at both Berlin Center and LeValley Churches this Sunday, January 10, 2021. I, also, plan to meet soon with those interested in joining the church and having a day of new member celebration in early Spring.

I want to take this opportunity to remind us all of some of the things we do in order to live out God's call on us to be a welcoming church. It doesn't happen by accident. It takes intentional behavior on the part of everyone sitting in the pews and serving in our mission and ministry for everyone to feel welcome. I've listed some actions below that help us to be a welcoming church. If you are saying to yourself, “Oh I don't need to do this because I feel awkward or uncomfortable or other people are better at this,” please re-think your response. If you are the person sitting next to someone new and you don't take the opportunity to greet and talk with that new person for at least a minute or two, that new person will perceive our church as unwelcoming and unfriendly. This really is one of those things that we all need to engage in—even if we just say one or two things to the new person and then take them over to someone who enjoys meeting new people!

So here are some suggestions:

●Talk to anyone you don't know before or after the worship service. Give them the opportunity to share a little about themselves and avoid overwhelming them with church "stuff".

●The Rule of 3: During the worship service identify people you do not know and make a determined effort to talk to them within three minutes of conclusion of the service. Many newcomers try to slip out quickly, but if we can connect with them, they will have a greater sense of welcome. This is an important outreach effort that must have priority over greeting friends. Ideally, every member of the congregation serves in this capacity.

●The Circle of 10 Rule: talk to and learn the names of everyone you don't know who is within a radius of ten feet from where you are sitting. If you're not sure if someone is new, you might say, "Hi, I'm ___. I haven't had the opportunity to meet you before.” And then ask them if they are new to the church, and if they are, if they are new to the community. You can ask them about hobbies, movies, what they are looking for in a church, family, most interesting place they have lived, first memory of God, etc. Do you want to learn more ideas about how to greet new people? Shadow someone who enjoys doing it (I would be glad to give you some suggestions).

Here are some suggestions for integrating newcomers into the life of our community:

●Invite them to the fellowship hall for coffee time(yes, I think we should reinstate this Sunday gathering) and engage them in deeper conversation.

●Call a church member you haven’t seen for a while, letting them know we are resuming worship in person, and, hopefully, hosting other church events.

●Get their contact info and invite them to join you for lunch, dinner, or just a cup of coffee.

●Invite a newcomer to join a small group with you.

●Having a party or gathering? Invite some newcomers.

●Offer to pick up a newcomer for the next Fellowship Event—when we schedule some again.

●Invite a newcomer to join you for exercise.

●Make a new year's resolution to invite a friend or family member who does not have a faith community to worship or to one of our events. Pick them up, sit with them at worship or the event, and introduce them around. Research shows that the great majority of people (86%) first come to a church because they were invited to do so by a family member or friend. Let's not underestimate the power that a personal connection has with a newcomer searching for a place in God's family—you may be that connection! As always, I am happy to talk with you about these or any other issues or concerns.

Blessings,

Pastor Nancy

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This afternoon, I sent Cindy an article for the January newsletter about being a more welcoming church as we return to in-person worship this Sunday. Then I learned of the protests at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., as well as protests at State Capitols around the country.

 I’m not sure if there was any violence around the country, but what I saw in Washington, D.C., when I turned on the television, sickened my stomach.

All afternoon and this evening, all I could think of was that we in the United States need to turn to God. We need to be in prayer, we need to turn to God’s word-the Scriptures, the Bible, and, we need to be in church, worshiping our Creator, the one who is ultimately in control.

So, along with being more welcoming of new people in our churches and people who are returning for the first time since last March, when we first learned of the seriousness of the Corona Virus, we need to encourage other friends and family members who don’t have a church or are unchurched, to join us for worship. What better way to try to explain and to and provide comfort to our children, than through worship of God with a loving church family.

I encourage each of you, as you are discussing, and/or debating what occurred today with others, to invite them to join you for worship on Sunday. Explain to them, expressed through your own words, how worship can bring them clarity, discernment, and most importantly, peace in these troubled times.

Love,

Pastor Nancy

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