Your Place in the Sunday "Dinner Party"
In the evangelical world, churches grow through “assimilation” - a process from the world of marketing that “converts” guests into “customers”. I sneeze at that.
Nevertheless, when we peel away the inedible husk of that buzzword, there is still something useful underneath. Much of what is labeled “effective assimilation” is simply gracious hosting. For instance:
Invite: When we throw a dinner party, we invite people first. In the church, we invite the people we know and meet. We have cards in the hallway that you can use for this purpose - grab some. We also “invite” by our website and search engine presence, and by our signage. Sometimes we invite with mailers, or other deliberate means.
Prepare: Once we’ve made the invitation, we prepare. We pray - this is most important. Yet Pastor Steve, an elder, and Nathan Hope prepare the service; teachers prepare, etc. But we also clean up our building, and we arrange our furniture just so, so that guests are comfortable. We setup signage, so that guests immediately grasp the important stuff - here are the bathrooms; here’s where the kids can play; feel free to hang out here; here’s more about our family. We prepare our “house” so that guests enjoy the gathering / dinner party.
Welcome: We formally welcome our guests at the door. Our badged, stationed greeters do just this.
Connection: Once dinner party guests arrive, we introduce them to others already arrived. We mention shared interests; we foster a connection. Lightly so - we know that there is no such thing as a “forced friendship”. In church, these people who foster connection are not necessarily the Greeters - they are often unbadged, unstationed, unhurried, thoughtful, intentional people, who see guests and introduce them to others. Not that it’s up to us - we know there’s a Spirit, and the truest connections come through sharing Christ in Him. Nevertheless, He uses us. These “connectors” point out printed materials; introduce guests to Community Group leaders and Discipleship Group leaders. They follow-up later by phone, email - whatever is socially appropriate.
Enjoyment: Don’t miss this one: the point of a dinner party is enjoyment. Our Sunday gathering is called a “Worship Celebration” for just this reason. We are not stacks of theological assumptions and demographic needs. Guests are humans, and humans enjoy enjoyment, and church is the right place for this: we were made to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.
Which aspect of “gracious hosting” — of owning our Sunday “dinner party” — appeals to you? I would love to discuss that further with you.