We are presently in the process of writing our Mission and Vision statements. The Mission Statement describes the reason our church exists and helps guide decisions about our priorities, actions, and responsibilities. 1 Peter 2:9 describes the church as “… a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellences of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” However, we need to know who we are in this community, what we do well, and what we need to change to attract and retain newcomers. We endeavor to welcome newcomers to our church, but how are we seen by them? How do we welcome newcomers to our church? Darby Jones “Five types of church visitors: Are you ready for them?” offers us a description of the following three types of churches:
- Stationary churches say, "You are welcome to join us." If newcomers fit the existing culture, they become members. If not, they usually leave.
- Medley churches welcome diversity because they know they should. This model looks and sounds beautiful. However, if the church does not welcome the rituals of different ethnicities and nationalities, eventually visitors will look for the exit sign.
- Transformer churches welcome all newcomers along with their unique gifts from God. They
Jones argues that welcoming newcomers means initiating relationships with people who will be-come members of our faith family. Our welcoming ministry aims to encourage visitors to return and we all endeavor to know what to do to encourage them to become a part of the family. Just as it is advantageous to know about our church’s reason to exist, our priorities, and responsibilities, we need to know something about the types of visitors we welcome week after week. Who are they and what they seek are questions we should strive to answer. Jones argued that the ability to identify different types of visitors can help us to understand what each seeks. The following is a list of the types of visitors we welcome to our church:
- Dissatisfied visitors are looking for a "better church." Either yours has what they are looking for or it doesn't. Their decision about returning will be based on these criteria.
- Invited visitors come at the request of someone they know. They may not be looking for a church, but they may find a reason to return and stay.
- Seekers want something spiritual. They look for real people with genuine smiles. They want authentic answers to their questions.
- Skippers jump from church to church. Some like to meet people or network. Others are transient, moving on when something doesn't suit them. Sometimes their job calls for continual travel.
- Deep-rooted visitors are active in their church and looking for a place to settle in for the long haul. When they move into a community, they are usually ready to serve (Jones, 2015). Surely, knowledge of what different visitors seek can guide us as we get to know them and help them understand whether our congregation is a good spiritual fit. The truth is that we want visitors to settle in with us. I pray that we all will become intentional about reaching new people and connect them to the life of our church and to a personal relationship with Jesus.
Yours truly, Rev. Dr. Peter E. Grinion