- reviewed the websites of 40+ Mainline Protestant congregations in our area
- identified 26 congregations for visits
- visited 23 congregations and planned visits to the 3 remaining congregations
- selected 5 congregations that appear possible matches and committed to visiting each a second time this summer
Several key categories help me process my experiences, including:
Friendly and Welcoming
While nearly every community of faith considers itself friendly and welcoming, our experience as first time guests has revealed a wide variety of welcomes. This range has been evident in how we were received upon entering the buildings, before and after the service in the way others engaged or ignored us, and the formal in service words of welcome to newcomers along with the follow up or failure to follow up using the information we provided.
Overall, I rank the churches we have visited so far as B- in this category.
Effective and Mission Driven Communication
Every church we have visited has given us printed materials that include information about the service of worship we attended as well as information about events happening in the days and weeks that followed the service. Almost every church has also included verbal announcements during the service (sometimes supplemented by visuals on a screen or screens). Both written and verbal communication about the life of the faith community beyond worship are consistently inconsistent and rarely have any clear link to congregational mission. Also, only a very small percentage of announcements contain a call to action.
Overall, I rank the churches we have visited so far as C in this category.
Accessible and Inspirational Worship
As a first time guest, I found it easy to fully participate in most services. In this regard the most awkward moments have tended to involve Communion/Eucharist/Lord’s Supper with inadequate instruction provided in the printed materials and verbal instructions.
Most services were relatively inspirational, and were clearly developed around a theme. The most distracting elements were the occasional element that was not linked to the theme (and, in a few cases seemed to counter the primary theme) and segues became elements in and of themselves rather than helpful transitions from one piece of the liturgy to the next.
Overall, I rank the churches we have visited as an A- in this category.
The four congregations we have selected for second visits (as well as any we may select during our remaining initial visits) did not earn straight As in these categories. In fact, in a few cases, they scored very low in one of the three areas. We have chosen them because we experienced their worship as meaningful, their mission as relevant, and their commitment to changing the world as achievable.
- What were the main reasons you chose to join or less formally affiliate with your current faith community?
- How would you rate your current congregation in each of the three areas (friendly and welcoming, effective and mission driven communication, and accessible and inspirational worship)?