In nearly two hours of training across the two days of diocesan convention, Mary Parmer brought the basics of Invite-Welcome-Connect to the Diocese of Georgia. Her work has been to gather the proven resources which are rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and designed to shape an authentic culture of effective newcomer ministry. This is designed for congregations of any size. Whether you were at the convention or not, the tools to begin this work are readily available. I want to lay out a plan to implement this in your congregation.
Gather a Team
While larger congregations might end up with three teams, the work begins with a group meeting at the church in three sessions. In each hour-long meeting, watch one of the half-hour videos Mary offers at www.invitewelcomeconnect.com. You will find one video for each of the three essentials. In advance of the first meeting, download the 20-page booklet found on the Resources Page of our diocesan convention website: Convention Resources Page. This provides an overview together with checklists for each of the three areas.
Map out a Plan of Action
During the three sessions, begin to pick some of the strategies that will fit your congregation well. Mary calls the three areas essentials as churches that do one or more of these well, but fail in others will not succeed as well in attracting newcomers and integrating them into the life of your congregation. The plans will vary for each congregation as this is not a cookie cutter program, because one size never fits all very well. Instead, Mary highlights concerns and offers tools. Our largest congregations will want separate teams working on Invite, Welcome, and Connect, while most of our churches will benefit from one group working together to set out a plan and then begin working through the action items.
The One Step I Recommend for Every Congregation
Any size congregation in this diocese will benefit from a Sharing Faith Dinner, and those with fewer than 50 (or fewer than 20) in worship on Sunday may even find it more transformative than larger churches. This might sound scary, but this is the easiest option for Episcopalians. One person needs to download the full information at sharingfaithdinners.com Gather 8-12 people for a meal. Then follow the plan in which you pick a card with a question and in answering that question, those sharing a meal with you will learn more about you and how your faith in Jesus has shaped your life in some way. I guarantee that this will be eye opening even when everyone present has known each other for years (which is why smaller congregations will really enjoy this).
There are no silver bullets and no one idea will transform the world. But you will learn more about yourself and those with whom you worship in one evening than would seem possible. Discovering how faith matters also builds up deeper roots. Growth is not only about moving out, but also about deepening our connection to God and those we already know. While that is not the one solution that unlocks all the spiritual growth we need, Sharing Faith Dinners is an important tool readily available thanks to the Diocese of Texas.
As you begin this work, let me know how it goes. Nothing will help us as a diocese set about this work more than sharing stories of how it is working in our congregations. We will want to share your stories here.
The Rev. Canon Frank Logue, Canon to the Ordinary