Welcoming Certification Plan
“New Christians” evangelism initiative,
sponsored by the Discipleship Ministries Team (DMT) of the Oklahoma Conference
Welcoming Certification Plan
(Contact Rev. Bob Johns at Will Rogers UMC: 918-834-0891 for more information.)
Newcomers may decide whether they are going to return to the church within the first 10 minutes of contact.
That’s before the pastor even preaches!
Our opportunity to connect newcomers to Christian hospitality begins in the parking lot and extends along their journey for the next 10 minutes and beyond. Do we make others feel they are noticed, welcome and a valued child of God in all places at all times?
When we truly welcome people, we’re doing more than greeting them at the door. We’re connecting them to a community of believers and letting them know they are noticed and valued. We’re receiving them as if we’re meeting Christ.
At the very heart of who we are as United Methodists is the concept that all persons are welcome. This is promoted through our concepts of diversity and plurality. As a democratically organized institution we say that all persons are welcome and need to be represented. In our worship we express the welcoming of God at our Lord’s Table as we don’t prohibit anyone who seeks to be in a right relationship with God and with their neighbor from Holy Communion. We baptize infants who cannot profess their faith or take a stand on any issue because we believe that God welcomes them.
We have always been known as the denomination that welcomes people without any prior examination of their beliefs or asking for any statement of their beliefs except for their commitment to Jesus Christ and his kingdom.
Our theology invites people just as our Lord did. Our structures empower people just as our Lord tried to do. At the core of Jesus’ actions were welcoming acts that made the kingdom itself invitational.
Even though at the center of who we are as Methodists, we are invitational, many of our behaviors and systems don’t necessarily reflect it.
Drive up to a church that has people outside ready to guide a visitor, or signage that makes it easy for strangers to find their way and the visitors will know that we are expecting them and want to be of help. Create a welcoming table and hosts with name tags on and visitors will begin to feel comfortable. When visitors are greeted and introduced to other members they will feel like they belong and will be comfortable. They will know that something is different here and they will be ready to not only hear the gospel but also they will know that they are experiencing it through a welcoming congregation. Then each congregation will be in a position to invite persons to a commitment to Jesus Christ and his kingdom that is natural and reflective of the individual strengths of the local congregation.
The power of this plan is that it puts the emphasis on who we are as United Methodists and instead of being a program that comes from above with many have “to’s”, each congregation can design their own approach that best fits them. The plan that they come up with will be a reflection of their distinctive personalities within each local community, while at the same time having accountability through their District Superintendents. This plan reinforces our strategic plan initiative and builds on it. Changing behavior is difficult at best, but is best realized when individuals make those decisions on their own. The easiest decision we can make is to own our distinctive theology of grace and express it through hospitality.
(The materials provided by the United Methodist Communications are used by permission and permission is granted to reprint and distribute these materials for use within The United Methodist Church.)
Welcoming, Inviting and Discipleship
- Being a Welcoming Congregation. Louisville, KY: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 2000.
- Geitz, Elizabeth Rankin. Entertaining Angels. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1993.
- Halverson, Delia. The Gift of Hospitality. St. Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1999.
- Miller, Craig Kennet. Next Church. Now: Creating New Faith Communities. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 2000.
- Morris, George E. and H. Eddie Fox. Faith-Sharing. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1996.
- Oswald, Roy M. Making Your Church More Inviting: A Step-by-Step Guide for In- Church Training. Washington, DC: The Alban Institute, Inc., 1992.
- The Inviting Church: A Study of New Member Assimilation. Washington, DC: The Alban Institute, Inc., 1987.
- Schnase, Robert. Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2008.
- Speaking Faith: The Essential Handbook for Religion Communicators. 7th Edition. New York: Religion Communicators Council.
- Swanson, Roger K. and Shirley Clement. The Faith-Sharing Congregation. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1996.
- Weeks, Andrew D. Welcome! Tools and Techniques for New Member Ministry. Washington, DC: The Alban Institute, Inc., 1992.
Connecting with the Unchurched
Barna, George. Casting the Net: The Unchurched Population in the Mid-Nineties. Oxnard, CA: Barna Research Group, Ltd., 1995.
The Second Coming of the Church: A Blueprint for Survival. Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998.
Barna Research Group, Ltd. The Igniting Ministry Campaign: National Audience Research. Nashville: United Methodist Communications, November 2000.
Hunter, George G. How to Reach Secular People. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1992.
Klaas, Alan C. In Search of the Unchurched. Washington, DC: The Alban Institute, Inc., 1996.
Net Results: New Ideas in Church Vitality. Lubbock, TX: Net Results, Inc., March 1999; Vol. XX, No. 3.
Roof, Wade Clark. Spiritual Marketplace: Baby Boomers and the Remaking of American Religion Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.
Sample, Tex. U.S. Lifestyles and Mainline Churches. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990.
Vassallo, Wanda. Church Communications Handbook: A Complete Guide to Developing a Strategy, Using Technology, Writing Effectively, Reaching the Unchurched. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1998.
Warren, Rick. The Purpose Driven™ Church: Growth without Compromising Your Message & Mission. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995.Dealing with Change and Transition
Bridges, William. Managing Transitions. Perseus Publishing, 2003.
Patton, Jeff. If It Could Happen Here… Turning the Small-Membership Church Around. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002).
Perry, Robert L. and Robert D. Dale. Find a Niche and Scratch it: Marketing Your Congregation. Grand Rapids, MI: Alban Institute, 2003.
Rendle, Gilbert R. Leading Change in the Congregation: Spiritual & Intentional Organizational Tools for Leaders. Grand Rapids, MI: Alban Institute, 1998.
Webb-Mitchell, Brett. Unexpected Guests at God’s Banquet: Welcoming People With Disabilities into the Church. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1994.
Willis, Kimberly Anne. “How Can Our Worship Services Be More Welcoming of People with Disabilities?” Available online at http://www.gbod.org/worship when you enter“ welcoming” into the search box. This article offers helpful suggestions about ways to make worship itself more welcoming for people with disabilities, and provides several other suggestions for additional reading and further exploration.