Passing the Peace / Greeting

Hearing someone in a nearby pew say, "The peace of Christ be with you," is a normal part of worship in most mainline Protestant Churches.  Erin Lane recently wrote a blog post sharing her experience of how awkward and stressful passing the peace was for her when attending worship by herself. She writes: Passing the peace was hands down the loneliest ritual I endured as a solo worshipper. . . waiting my turn for someone to turn toward me during the passing of the peace? Excruciating. (Okay, Read More …

Sermon: Experiencing & Extending God’s Welcome

Text: Luke 14: 7-15 Sermon Excerpt What in the name of God is going on here? This is a question you will hear me ask many times in the weeks ahead.  I begin this morning as I did with the children – with welcome. I imagine many, perhaps even most of you have a welcome mat outside the front door of your home.  It is a sign to all who approach your residence that they will find welcome within. Newcomers to communities of faith are usually not looking down to read words on the door Read More …

Learning from Church Spies

Terry Mattingly writes the nationally syndicated “On Religion” column for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C., and is director of the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.  His latest article, "Lessons Learned from Church Spies," features the story of one spy's experience.  The church spy, Chuck Lawless (evangelism professor and the graduate dean at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary), found just what others in the business of Read More …

Churches Should

Church leaders should expect newcomers at all worship services, and plan accordingly.  Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, recently shared a list of helpful hints reflecting on his visits to a number of churches over the last seven months.    He recommends congregations: have plentiful signage on the outside and inside, offer user-friendly websites, and help newcomers easily locate parking and restrooms. So What? Rainer's recommendations are ones that Read More …

Refusing a Handshake

Within church life, many congregations include a time of greeting/welcome during the worship service.  During that time participants are encouraged to talk to one another, and many include friendly handshakes in those interactions.  In recent years, however, an increasing number of people have opted out of the handshaking or any type of physical contact during these moments of fellowship.  This trend is most noticeable during flu season. So What? Whether invited to pass the peace, greet one Read More …

Radical Hospitality Isn’t Enough

Scott Benhase, Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia, recently wrote that radical hospitality alone is no longer adequate.  In his understanding, the theology most commonly undergirding radical hospitality is such that it supposes something of a "law of attraction" wherein "if we’re just open and welcoming enough people will naturally be attracted to us and want to come and join our churches."  In reality, the number of people who are attracted continues to dwindle thereby rendering it Read More …

Church Size & First Time Guests

Faith Perceptions recently released the latest edition of their church index, which provides insight into the experiences of first time guests.  More specifically, the findings are based on 1,152 separate and unique church services attended by the company's mystery guests (think mystery shoppers for church attendance) between early 2008 and June 1, 2012.  The overall results for each church size are shown below (p.6). So What? Large churches (those with average weekly worship attendance Read More …

Future Church – More Begin by Belonging

Church v.2020 - Ten Changes: #5 More Begin by Belonging – Less Begin by Believing When compared with the American church of 2012, the future church (v.2020) will offer a new order to the faith that begins with belonging instead of believing.  Diana Butler Bass rightly recognizes this shift as the one capable of moving the church from "religion-as-institution" to "religio as spiritually vital faith" (Christianity After Religion, 2012:  p.204 -- read my review here). The current preferred Read More …

Effectively Welcoming Visitors

Kevin Hendricks, founder of Monkey Outta Nowhere and author of Addition by Adoption: Kids, Causes and 140 Characters (2010), recently wrote a post for Church Marketing Sucks entitled "Making Visitors Feel Welcome (But Not Too Welcome)".  In the article he reflects on the topic in light of his reflections after hearing Anne Lamott read from her latest book and talk about her own experience.  Recognizing a one-size-fits-all approach is ineffective, Hendricks suggests those involved in your Read More …

The Other Half

Protestant churches have done exceptionally well among those who are married and even better among those who are married and have children.  These groups, as a percentage of the total American population, have been shrinking for decades and likely will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The latest data from the Pew Research Center shows that only half of adults (51%) aged 18 and older were married in 2010.  Additionally, the median age for first marriage has risen steadily over the Read More …