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.

The Gift Of Hospitality

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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

Connection Matters

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We’ve just returned from the 2015 CEEP (Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes) conference, where we once again connected with scores of amazing people doing wonderful things in their churches and organizations — locally, nationally, and globally.

The conference theme “Connection Matters” was truly made manifest as people came together online and in person to discuss, think, share, brainstorm, laugh, and learn. We at ChurchNext enjoyed meeting face-to-face with many of our subscribers all over the country, and hearing how folks are using ChurchNext to enhance and expand on their Christian formation offerings.

ChurchNext, too, is about connection: connecting people of faith and seekers, both online and in community, to wrestle with life issues, grow in faith and wisdom, and become leaders in their churches.

As Sara Miles noted in her lecture on Friday, the most important word in the Bible is “with.” Jesus is God with us. Christianity is about people with people. Love is abiding with another. Connection matters: we are called to live, love, worship, learn, and serve with one another. And whether that “withness” is facilitated online in virtual discussions, in Sunday forums at church, or in small group meetings at home, ChurchNext is committed to empowering God’s people as they seek greater and deeper connections with God, with creation, with other people, with knowledge, with faith.

The Church has a long history of making use of the latest technology to spread the Good News (as Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows teaches in this course), and we’re committed to finding new and meaningful ways to help people connect. What sorts of connections are most meaningful for you? We’d love to connect with you.

How to Create a Crisis Communications Plan for Your Church with Meredith Gould

We live in a world with instant transmission of news, a world in which people make snap judgments, and in which forgiveness may not be the immediate impulse for many. If something difficult or even devastating were to happen in your church, the way your church handles it — and the way your church communicates its position to those watching and listening — could have a lasting impact. If the worst happens, we can at least mitigate the damage by  responding in healthy, timely, and appropriate ways. We’re glad to offer this course on Crisis Communications to help you start the process of intentionally creating a proactive communications plan.

Meredith Gould has over 25 years of experience helping people share their message and helping gouldchurches plan for unforeseen crises. Though many folks have never considered it — or avoid the topic because it can be uncomfortable — Meredith reminds us that crises do occur, and that there are good ways and bad ways to handle them. Why not have a plan in place so that your response comes from a place of calm and confidence rather than a place of fear or thoughtlessness? Over five lessons, we learn the hows and whys of crisis communications, best practices, mistakes to avoid, and importance of care and support for those involved in managing crises.

This course is vital for anyone involved in church administration or leadership. It empowers clergy and lay people to proactively imagine scenarios, plan their response, and move forward. Click here to register or for more information.

Meredith Gould is an author, speaker and a communications consultant. You can find out more about her here.

New course: Introduction to Church Marketing

Some folks may raise their eyebrows at the title of our latest course, Introduction to Church Marketing — after all, isn’t marketing something sales-y people do, or companies trying to sell services or products?  Well, as Jake Dell points out, the opening sentences of Luke’s gospel show a pretty great example of someone selling a product and service — with a “money-back guarantee” to boot!

Marketing really is just evangelism by another name.  We believe in what we’re selling, don’t we? And our “product” promises everlasting life, peace, and grace. Our marketing efforts should match our enthusiasm for our mission. If we think about marketing our churches in this way, we can see dellthere’s a lot to learn from commercial marketing wisdom, and a lot that can be adapted for our purposes.  We’ll learn what marketing means, how to do it, when and where to do it, and just how important it is.

This course is perfect for those in church leadership, both lay and clergy; it offers a wealth of knowledge and tips for getting our gospel message out and getting folks in the door.  Click here for more information or to register.

The Rev. Jake Dell has worked in marketing and advertising for years and currently serves as the manager of digital advertising and sales for the Episcopal Church.

New Course: Introducing Stewardship with Kristine Miller

We’re excited to launch Introducing Stewardship in time for churches’ traditional Fall campaigns. And yet, one of the things Kristine Miller reminds us in this course is that stewardship isn’t just for a season. If we want to see real change and improvement in our fundraising, we need to remember that stewardship is more than money: it’s an ongoing practice of faith to which God calls us as we seek to do God’s work.miller

This course offers valuable advice on assembling a stewardship committee, strategizing communications efforts, and responding to changes in culture and practice so that we reach people where they are, as they are, and communicate our passion for our ministry.  If we’re excited about and committed to the work our church is doing, why shouldn’t we ask others to be?  No more apologizing or skirting around the issue.  People want to invest in things that matter — and we believe that our churches matter.

This course will be valuable to congregations, stewardship committees, church vestries and governing bodies, and clergy alike.  Click here to register or for more information.

Kristine Miller is a professional stewardship consultant, speaker, and writer. Her titles include Climb Higher: Reaching New Heights in Giving and Discipleship.