Imagine for a moment that you are a first-time guest at Maranatha. You have just moved to Columbus and are looking for a new church family.
Everything is new! New people. New building. New music. New teachers. New structure.
Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re in a different world altogether, and that no one is speaking your language. Even simple expressions of kindness can seem insufficient or insincere if they’re not communicated in a way that people understand.
Of course, we want to be hospitable! We want to show the love of Christ, but how can we communicate that in a way that will be understood? How can we say, “Welcome to Maranatha” and it not sound like a foreign language?
What questions would you ask?
Let’s begin by considering the questions you might ask if you were a first-time guest and how you would get the information. You care about the primary issues regarding the teaching of the Word, essential doctrines, core values, philosophy of ministry, programs for the family, and heart for the gospel. You’ve done some initial “fact-finding” online through the church’s website. You’ve read the statement of faith, explored the various ministries, and listened to a sermon or two, but there are still so much to learn.
The language is unfamiliar
Depending on your previous church experience, there is still so much that is unfamiliar. What is “small group” and what purpose does it serve? What is membership and why is that important? What is “neighboring” all about – and how does it relate to mission? How does a person get connected? How do they get involved in ministry? What opportunities exist? How do I get to know people on a deeper level? How do I begin to grow in my relationship with Christ? What seems so obvious to us as long-time members of Maranatha is foreign to many of those who visit us for the first time.
Making the next steps clear
As we seek to communicate warmth and courtesy, it is important for us to take initiative in welcoming people into deeper relationship by making the next steps as clear and accessible as possible. We believe that this requires a concerted effort on the part of every member of our church, not only to show courtesy and kindness, but also to invite them to learn more about us in tangible ways they will understand.
One way we have done this is by introducing Pizza with the Pastors. This is a luncheon we plan to make available every quarter to engage our guests on a more personal level. This gives your pastoral staff the opportunity to make a connection, answer questions, convey our core values, and describe our philosophy of ministry (in September we had 20 people attend). This also gives us the chance to encourage our guests to learn more about our church through our four-week Welcome to Maranatha class that begins the following week.
The Welcome to Maranatha class is intended to introduce some the basic concepts of the church: Why does it exist? What is my personal responsibility? What does a healthy church look like? and Why is membership important? We recognize that there are many who visit our church who have never come to grips with the significance of corporate worship, and this class seeks to answer that question. We also provide an opportunity for them to become familiar with our essential doctrines as well as the distinctives that make us Maranatha. We provide tools on how to create a personal testimony, and we walk them through the gospel. We spend some time talking about the significance of ministry within the church and we’ve included a spiritual gifts inventory, so they can begin to discover the way they can contribute to the body. It’s our desire to use this class as a gateway to assimilation – to proactively move people from the periphery into the center. To welcome them into relationship and show them how God might use them in our body and grow them in spiritual maturity.
We think this is one more step in helping us say, “Welcome to Maranatha.”