This post assumes you read yesterday's. Here is an edited version of an email I received recently (I've removed personal information):
My wife, Jennifer, and I have been coming to Five Oaks for a couple of years and have been thoroughly appreciative of the Sunday services, small groups, and opportunities provided. When I think back to how we came to find Five Oaks and stay here, I think it is clear God brought us to Five Oaks because it was exactly what we were needing after moving to the area.
Now, as I look around the worship center on Sundays, I typically can spot a number of people that I know ranging from acquaintances to close friends. Unfortunately, the people I can’t identify are the people who are checking Five Oaks out or who aren’t in a small group because they just haven’t been asked. This has been on my mind in recent months as I have been wondering – “am I getting too comfortable with my Five Oaks friends?” I haven’t brought someone new to my small group; in fact I haven’t even invited anyone! Thinking back to why my wife and I kept coming back to Five Oaks after our first visit, there are three specific reasons we stayed:
1. First Impressions – People were welcoming as we arrived, the age demographics were diverse and included our own age group, the music matched the contemporary style we liked, etc.
2. The message hit home – We found Five Oaks during 2nd week of the Dave Ramsey Video series. Don’t take that the wrong way, because we appreciate your preaching! But that message was exactly what we needed to hear at that moment – it gave us hope that there was a Biblical answer, and a plan we could follow, to financial peace – which for us meant no more arguing about money! We did FPU over the coming months.
3. A Five Oaks couple took the time to talk to us after the service – This was HUGE. The wife picked us out of the crowd and asked if we were new to Five Oaks? I asked if we walked to communion wrong? What gave us away?! In all seriousness though, if she had not stopped and introduced herself and her husband, I can’t be sure if we would have been back. Not that the rest of the service wasn’t inviting, it is just that they did a phenomenal job of welcoming us personally. They told us about their experience at Five Oaks, asked about where we had moved into, showed us the Acorn Café, and invited us to their small group! My wife and I decided to take a risk and we went; and the people in the small group are, hands-down, the best group of friends I have ever had.
So with all of that in mind, I keep thinking – how do I duplicate what this couple did for us? How do I contribute to the growth of our church and the Church? I don’t recognize the new people in the worship center on Sunday because we are large enough that there is always someone new to meet. I just assume I haven’t met them before but they have probably been going to Five Oaks for quite a while. How often is that assumption wrong?
This leads me to my suggestion. We get a minute or so, every service, to greet the people around us. But that time is usually spent saying “hi” or “good morning.” It is friendly, but it stops with a handshake. Prior to Five Oaks, we lived south of the cities and attended a church in Minneapolis. They had a similar time to greet at the beginning of the service, but they provided closer to 3-4 minutes to say hello.
They asked us to deliberately turn to someone we don’t know and spend that time getting to know the person and finding out how long they have been coming to the church. They knew we would make time to say hi to the people we already knew – so making new connections was the emphasis. They also always had an ice-breaker type of question – easy things a pastor could introduce with his own story like “What is your memorial day tradition? Because at my house...” We would often get a laugh out of the pastor’s story, and then turn and talk with a person around us. Naturally, there was just enough time to address the ice-breaker and find out if someone had never been to the church.
Thinking about Five Oaks, how cool would it be to find out the person behind me is new and checking out churches? Or has been coming to Five Oaks but never joined a small group? Now the door is flung wide open for me to talk about our church, invite to a small group, join the person for 10 minute connect, etc. Getting back to our experience, it was so nice to have that personal touch from this Five Oaks couple. As we checked out their small group, and returned for Sunday services in subsequent weeks, we had a familiar face to look for. We never made a beeline for the parking lot after the service ended because we were being welcomed into the church on a very personal level.
Take my thoughts for what they are worth. It isn’t about what our other church did “better” than Five Oaks. It is about wanting Five Oaks to be a church that is so welcoming to people moving into our community, checking out Christianity, etc, that they can’t help but think “there is something different at this church!”
The fair challenge to me personally, of course, is to do my best to make the effort to get to know people in the Sunday services better, regardless. I realize that – I’m just looking for a little help to knock me out of my comfort zone on Sunday morning! In suggesting this to others from my small group, they thought it would be worth writing you. So that’s why you are getting this email!
I would love to hear your thoughts if you have time.
Have a blessed rest of your week...