New course: Welcoming Visitors launches today

Today we launch a wonderful course on hospitality, taught by Episcopal priest and author Elizabeth Geitz. As we know, welcoming visitors and strangers is a commission we have from God, and most churches make some attempt at a hospitality ministry.geitz

But there’s so much more to welcoming people than smiling and shaking their hands (though that is a start!). In Welcoming Visitors, Elizabeth reminds us what’s really going on when we practice hospitality; why it’s important; and key ways we can make sure that visitors and newcomers feel welcomed, heard, engaged, and incorporated, so that they become and remain active, involved members of our faith communities.

This course also lends itself easily to Small Group use; perhaps your church’s leadership, or your existing Hospitality Ministry, would find this a welcome springboard for strengthening and renewing your programs. As Elizabeth reminds us, hospitality is a vital ministry, one to which not everyone is called, and one that benefits from ongoing training and prayerful discernment.

We invite you to take and share this course, as we all seek to reach out to those around us, shaping disciples for Jesus’ work in the world. Click here for more information or to register.

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The Gift Of Hospitality

hospitality

How does your church welcome visitors and newcomers? How does your church turn those folks into active, engaged members of the Body of Christ?

The Episcopal Church Foundation offers some ideas here.

A pastor of a large non-denominational church in California offers the “LINE UP” rule.

BuildFaith.org offers even more advice here.

This Sunday, we’ll be launching our latest course on Church Management: Welcoming Visitors with Elizabeth Geitz offers practical wisdom on the ministry of hospitality as well as why it’s so important, both for visitors and for long-term church members. Hospitality is about remembering the sacred importance of every single person who walks through the church doors. It’s about listening for the needs of those who come to church — since everyone who comes does so for a reason, whether they realize it or not.

Does your church practice intentional welcoming? Does it follow up with visitors and newcomers? Does it give thanks each worship service for the visitors in your midst? Does it make it easy for a newcomer to really get involved? Do you know everyone’s name in your pew?

How is God calling you and your church to welcome visitors? You might be interested in Elizabeth Geitz’s book, Fireweed Evangelism: Christian Hospitality in a Multi-Faith World. And stay tuned for our course launching Sunday.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for in doing so some have entertained angels unawares.”

Hebrews 13:2

What Is God Calling Us To Do?

What is a blessed church? It is a church uniquely grounded in a relationship with God that allows blessings to flow through it. It is a church with a vibrant sense of faith, hope, and love. It is a church that embraces the sacred and that is not afraid to serve God in its own way. Pastor and author N. Graham Standish describes how a church that is open to God’s purpose, presence, and power can claim God’s blessing.

Standish shares the story of Calvin Presbyterian Church in Zelienople, Pennsylvania, and its journey to become a spiritually deep congregation, one that is inwardly and outwardly healthy: spiritually, psychologically, physically, and relationally. Becoming a blessed church will help you discern God’s purpose and the path God is calling your congregation to walk. This book will help you find Christ in your midst and become aware of the many ways the blessings of God’s Spirit flow through your congregation.

Our latest course, Deepening the Spirituality of Your Congregation with Graham Standish, launches today, for both individuals and For Groups. Graham’s book, Becoming a Blessed Church (from which the above is taken), chronicles his own parish’s journey in re-placing God at the grahamcenter of all leadership, vision creation, and meetings. In Graham’s understanding, most mainline churches have come to run themselves solely as businesses, with majority-rules votes taken during meetings — and not as actively prayerful places of discernment (at least, outside worship services). He contends that a church whose leadership focuses primarily on functionality — rather than prayerful study and group discernment — is one whose decisions are made according to the will of the leaders, and perhaps not of God.

What does he mean by this? Well, consider how your church’s governing body makes decisions: if you ask, “All in favor, say ‘Aye'” and not, “All who feel that this is God’s will, say ‘Aye'” you may have slipped into the “functional” track. Sometimes those two questions can yield the same answer, but often, the first kind of question helps church leadership forget that God is in charge and that its role is to discern God’s will. It makes “secret deists” who nod politely toward God in their opening and closing prayers, but ask God to step aside for the majority of the meeting and the decision- and plan-making.

Graham’s church has tried some radical rethinking of leadership and visioning, and the results are striking. Church leaders pray more, read and study more, grow in their faith more deeply and deliberately, and this has led to a stronger and more spiritually-grounded congregation overall.

Take Graham’s course, Deepening the Spirituality of Your Congregation — and see if the way your church leadership operates could use a little rethinking. We’d be interested to hear your comments on our Facebook page. We commend this course especially to clergy and lay leaders of churches.

To learn more about Graham and to make use of his free resources, click here.