3. Build an Accepting Community
Pastors who lead congregations that feel “Stuck” – no sense of momentum, resistance to any new idea or direction.
In conversations with dozens of pastors and leaders, I hear the same sentiments.
“We are a very loving congregation, but no matter what we do, we have no momentum.”
After sitting in on some of their services, it seems right that their group is loving. On the other hand, those congregations are usually dug in and unwilling to upset what is already there.
Sometimes I’ve followed up on a list of their recent visitors to ask how they felt in visiting the church and if they will likely return. More often than not they too picked up on the love between members, but they didn’t feel love aimed at them. One couple said they felt “invisible” among the people. Acceptance goes beyond the required, “Turn to your neighbor and say hi” at the end of the worship.
When you go into the community to bring God’s kindness, you send an invitation to stop by and check it out. Ask yourself (and detractors who might put fear into the mix) by saying something like, “If we open the doors too widely, who knows what sorts of people would show up – and bring in their problems here.” It is easy to justify attitudes and situations that stink, and that will cocoon us from being soiled by new people.
Who Isn’t Welcome Here?
I usually ask them, “‘I hear your concern.’ How about this question, ‘Who isn’t welcome here?’ Here’s another one that goes with the first. ‘How long does it take for someone to change? As far as I can tell, it’s God who does the heavy lifting when it comes to heartbreaking. Our job is to love them and accept them as they come to us.’ Remember – acceptance isn’t the same as approval.’”
Every couple of weeks, at the end of services I usually ask the congregation to invite some others out to lunch. Usually, three individuals or couples are easier than just two. The new person will be more likely to say yes to dinner with three than two.
I suggest they take the new people out to lunch on their dime and maybe get them a burrito “that’s as big are your head” to give them a touch of the generosity they need to show. It’s amazing what can happen over a 45-minute lunch, even at Taco Bell (if that’s more in line with your budget).