We had a good morning yesterday. I had a very interesting and overwhelmingly positive reaction to my musings on Bowie and Nathanael (see my previous post) and the church had a large number of visitors. Intriguingly, many of those were visitors from overseas, including Lithuania and Holland. It says something significant about the way Bromley is changing.
It was, of course, the Big Welcome (or Back to Church Sunday as others call it), so it was great to have a number of visitors in our congregation (though I'm not sure many of them were there because of the efforts of the church inviting them!) I suspect the visitors pitched up because of our location - in the town centre, close to bus routes and recognisably ecclesiastical - and, I'd like to think, because of the welcome we offer once those people come close.
We've been having a conversation about welcome recently, pondering how we can capitalise on what we're already doing, how we make people feel at home among us.
A key part of this has been how we can help people to belong at the level they want to. We have tended to operate a 'one-size fits all' policy: everyone coming to church is looking to be actively involved in the church's programme, certainly wants to join a home group and is probably keen to volunteer in Sunday School, youth work or the women's meeting.
But recent experience suggests that this is not the case. we have a number of people who 'belong' to our church - in that they attend weekly without fail (often more regularly than long-standing committed members) but do not want to become members and certainly don't see volunteering in the church's programme as the path to fulfilment. They are even pretty iffy about the hone groups as they are currently constituted.
I suspect other churches are facing these issues. I'd be interested to know how others tackle it. Our conversations continue. I'll keep you posted.