We Will No Longer be a Welcoming Church

We’ve decided to quit being a welcoming church. No kidding. We’re giving it up. It won’t be easy, but we’re committed to it. We’ll have to do it in stages, easing our folks into it step by step. We’ll have to deal with the fear of something new, the challenge of venturing into the unknown. But we’ll do it. It will take motivation, leadership, and constant reminders. But most importantly, it will take total commitment in embracing a new focus.

Like so many churches, we’ve sunk an amazing amount of time and energy into becoming a welcoming church. We changed worship styles, we trained greeters and ushers, we wore name tags, we percolated coffee, we went to workshops on hospitality, we put our friendliest people in the most prominent places on Sunday mornings. But we’ve realized we’ve been misplacing our emphasis. So we’re no longer going to do it.

Here’s what we’re doing instead. We are becoming an Inviting Church. That’s different. You see, “welcoming” from a missional perspective is passive. It denotes waiting for visitors and guests to drop by. When they do, we attempt treat them very well and do everything possible to make them comfortable. We’ll be willing to change who we are. We’ll follow particular formats that have proven to be more welcoming to new people. We’ll do whatever it takes to have them come back the next Sunday, even if they shouldn’t. Welcoming is about us, not about them.

“Inviting,” however, is different. That means we leave the comfort of our congregational home-court advantage. The main activity doesn’t happen in our worship space when people drop in, but in the neighborhood when we go out. It isn’t so much welcoming them into our place, but going out into their place and meeting them there.

Even that warrants a significant caveat. This is not just another gimmick to get people into the church. The foundation of this isn’t an attempt to bolster declining membership rolls and make a better parochial report to the bishop. No, it goes much deeper than that. It starts with who God has called us to be as church. It involves discovering our gifts and purpose. And it mandates joining God at work in the world. This isn’t about getting the world into God’s church; it’s about getting the church into God’s world.

If you’ve read any postings on this blog before, you know that God’s mission is what we are to be about. Everything comes from that—including the identity of the church. We exist as church only because God has a mission. Our purpose, our very identity, is called forth out of God’s loving care and redemptive activity in creation. We are steeped in God’s mission. We are drenched through baptism into this essential character of God. God is at work in the world, and creates, calls, and equips the church specifically for that work.

Each congregation has a purpose within God’s mission. Each congregation has particular gifts. Each congregation reveals the life-giving reign of God in unique ways. No congregation is everything to everyone. But every congregation is something to someone. Who can know God through your worship style? Who can experience forgiveness and grace through your congregational community? Who needs the gifts you have to offer? Who can offer gifts you need? Knowing those things, when in conversation over the backyard fence about their pain in losing a loved one, it would be natural then to invite that neighbor to your congregation’s grief support group that has made such a difference for many others. When in the employee lunch room chatting about the pressures of our jobs, it would fit to invite that co-worker to your congregation’s spiritual direction group for professionals. When sharing the struggles of parenthood with a friend while waiting for your kids to come out of school, it would make sense to invite their whole family to your cross-generational faith development where you have gained so much guidance from other parents. While paying for a car repair, your long-time mechanic lets slip that she has lost her faith, it would easily flow for you to invite her to join you (and all the other doubters who will gather this Sunday) in worship.

Welcoming involves hoping whoever happens to find you will join. Inviting involves sharing God’s specific gifts—made real in your congregation—in the world.

Based on a council study of the book, Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath (Broadway Books, a division of Random House, Inc., N.Y. Copyright © 2010 by Chip Heath and Dan Heath) http://www.amazon.com/Switch-Change-Things-When-Hard, my congregation is going about this transition from being welcoming to becoming inviting in three specific ways. One leadership team is taking the lead for each portion. Each of these three approaches will be the topic of an upcoming post on this blog. As a preview, however, they are: motivating people to invite, taking on invitation in bite-size pieces, and changing the inviting environment. We aren’t sure what the final results will be, but we’re excited to find out. Join us on this journey as we jump off the cliff and (hopefully) learn to fly. Please offer feedback, ideas, and help along the way.

Categories: church growth, Church in Transition, missional | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 149 Comments

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149 thoughts on “We Will No Longer be a Welcoming Church

  1. Reblogged this on Parson Seth and commented:
    Moving from welcoming to inviting is a hard task but so rewarding.

    • We’re finding that out. It is a major paradigm shift! Thanks for your comments.

      • rev. parabéns pela iniciativa, em sua igreja se quiser mandar um dos seus lideres para conviver um tempo com nossa comunidade, poderá vivenciar não só como dar boa vindas más como envolver o recém chegado nos trabalhos da igreja. poderemos providencias hospedagem e alimentação. Edson (igreja presbiteriana do Brasil)

    • Linda

      Every Church should be inviting. If the people within the church are not inviting more people then how does the church grow? God wants us to bring more people to the church to learn about him and to be saved. The church should be welcoming and inviting.

    • semantics!

  2. Pastor Gary

    Blessings to you! We too are on that track. It is a joyful opportunity to meet people where they are, rather than having them come to meet us where we are. Taking the gifts God has given us to the world has been an amazing joy and relief!

    • Thanks for the comment. I wish you well on this missional journey! Let’s stay in touch and share ideas. I don’t know about you, but I could use the support!

  3. Well stated! This is such a timely word for the Church today. I look forward to reading future blogs on this “it’s not about me” topic!

  4. John Harpel

    How refreshing. I like it. I’ve been to the churches of “Feel good” and “Be Happy” and they have a big pull and a big audience, but for me no depth. But to be invited to a spiritual community that brings Gods love to the real fabric of life that would be something.

    • John, I appreciate the comments, thank you. And thanks for being part of the conversation. The way you describe a spiritual community is what we’ve been striving for. It will take time and commitment. Our congregation has lost some members in this transition to depth rather than consumer-appeal. That has been a little frightening for some (as we were growing steadily for quite a few years). We need to redefine how we measure “success,” less about butts-in-seats and more about relationship.

      • Thank you Pastor Moss. May I use you as an example in an up coming sermon? I’m preparing a sermon (Let’s Change the Guest List!) based on Jesus’ instruction to “invite the poor” rather than the rich (Lk. 14:13-14). It will be challenging for a middle class congregation to take that teaching to heart and act on it!

      • Of course. Anything that’s helpful.

    • newway

      Amen! I agree!

  5. Tim Stadem

    Great stuff, Rob! I’ll be watching, learning. And I’m curious how much your leadership team will uncover our rooted ‘judgments’ that get in the way of invitation. You know, the keepers of the temple traditions — with rituals like cleansing & purification — nailed Jesus for ‘welcoming’ the wrong people. They weren’t clean yet; they were unrepentant. He used grace and forgiveness…way too early. This would undo the temple system. I guess I’m curious about how we get into that ‘inner work’, uncovering our own judgments, harmful traditions, unrighteousness…and create an equal plain in our need of the “physician.” God be with you!

    • Thanks, Tim. Those hidden obstacles will likely be revealed as we go along. Thanks for the comment–it gives us another perspective to be pay attention to. Much appreciated! Invitation is not the only thing, nor is it the first thing, we’ve delved into on this missional journey. And we keep bumping into obstacles at each step. The best thing we can do is share, collaborate, and encourage one another along the road.

      • Tim Stadem

        Yes. And that mutual work…you ARE fostering, cultivating. Wonderful! Thank you! Much of my wondering out loud comes out of Roxburgh, “The Missional Leader” — very helpful book for me.
        And I’m focused on an essential bridge between 1) each individual leader’s personal & spiritual unfolding and 2) our efforts for accompaniment in our neighborhoods. Likewise, we who aren’t sure about our ‘readiness’ to send our people into the fields may be closer than we think …because this formative work of spiritual development is quite often right in front of us: whenever our leadership gathers….and whenever we, personally, let Christ help us attend to our own shadows, false self, overwhelmed mind, etc. Letting the transformative work of God’s grace regularly cultivate our lives changes everything. Perhaps we aren’t aware of the ‘how’ or even ‘why’ of this. Roxburgh expects that pastor’s are intimate(my word) in their spiritual practices. Likewise, I think this groundwork plants an ‘authenticity’ in pastors and leaders to their discernment and application of creative programs and framework for ‘reaching out’. I think Roxburgh would ask: How can pastors nurture other leaders to do this life shaping, cultivating work… if their own soul shaping patterns are ‘out of breath.’
        [some thoughts for the conversation] Rob, I will dive into these resources you recommended. Thanks again for these connections. .

      • Great thoughts, Tim. I appreciate Roxburgh’s perspective on much of this missional work. He is certainly a part of the missional conversation in the church today.As to leaders’ spiritual “readiness” (my word), I’ve been reading Dr. Brene’ Brown’s “The Gifts of Imperfection” that has opened me up to some new (for me) ways of growing spiritually. Both for me personally and also ways to help our leaders grow. Nothing is everything, but this book has helped me take some of my own blinders off.

      • Tim Stadem

        Hi Rob. If you are still offering your writing as a resource, I would greatly appreciate a copy.
        Thanks for all your encouragement. Tim Stadem

      • Sure, Tim. I can get it to you tomorrow. If you use it, send me feedback.

  6. C Eric

    This was an inspiring post. A friend sent it to me, now I’ll be following your posts/updates. I’m on the same page, as a pastor. My congregation is not. I’m new here — and for me the question would be: if we’re inviting, what are we inviting people to? I’m not sure my congregation offers the spiritual community that the world hungers for… yet. I’m not sure we can follow your example before we get closer to each other and authentically rooted in discipleship to Christ. Sounds like you’ve laid important groundwork to make this shift.

    • Very insightful response; thank you. This whole “church” thing is indeed a journey–none of us has arrived at the perfect place yet. Nor will we. But I’m quite sure that every congregation has gifts to offer their surrounding community. The question is, can we discover them? I would recommend three resources to help along that journey:
      “Living Lutheran” by Dave Daubert (even if your not Lutheran). Great resource for developing a purpose statement and guiding principles–necessary aspect to knowing your congregation’s role in God’s mission.
      “Unbinding the Gospel” by Martha Grace Reese. Excellent tool to help congregations get into the neighborhood.
      “The Neighborhood Church” by (humbly) Robert Moss. Not published yet (pilot teams are working through it to recommend edits). However, if interested, I can email you a PDF (about 75-80 pages). The purpose of this book is to help congregations listen to and engage relationally with their neighborhoods. Blessings on the journey!

      • C Eric

        Thanks Rob. I’m interested in each of these resources, and would gladly read your forthcoming book. Also, I am Lutheran.

      • I’ll email you a PDF of my book. Since it’s not in its final draft, it’s free! I would ask that if you put together a group to lead your congregation through it, give me feedback that will help shape the final version. I’ve already received some very helpful suggestions. Blessings!

      • Jean DeVoll-Donaldson

        I am an ELCA D.E.M. and your topic is one near to my heart and part of my frustration at how hard it is for congregations to overcome their fear and realize the importance of neighborhood engagement. I’d appreciate a copy of your book’s PDF if you are willing to share it with one more person. Thanks!

      • Jean, I’d be happy to send it to you.
        I served as the Rocky Mountain Synod’s interim DEM from August through January; I hear your frustration! Even in my own congregation, where I’ve been a pastor for 15 years, the transition is wrenchingly difficult.
        BTW, noting your email address, I’m assuming you are DEM for the Arkansas-Oklahoma Synod? My first call was Immanuel, outside of Cushing, OK. I went to OKC for a text study when Alan Fox was near there–can’t remember the town. Anyway, if you see him, tell him hi–he just did a funeral for the father of one of my members here.

      • Hello,

        I have just discovered your blog. We are trying to make this kind of shift in our church as well. For some of us, it is difficult, but essential, if the church is to survive.

        Would you kindly send me the .pdf file of your book? If that is not possible, would you tell me the name of the book and where I can get it. I am a lay person who thinks lay people can help pastors with the jobs they need to do. I am willing.

        God bless you and thanks.

        Carol Berg

  7. Pingback: We Will No Longer Be A Welcoming Church, Pt. 2: The Motivation! | Neighborhood Church

  8. Rob, Matthew from Ascension In Ogden here, awesome blog about the transition from passive welcoming to more active inviting, I have shared it with many. Are there other resources you have found that are informative and helpful in equipping the servant leaders you collaborate with to live into such a change?

    • Hi Matthew! Thanks for asking. The best resources I’ve found are the ones I’ve referred to in previous replies to that blog post: Daubert, Grace Reese, and (even) Moss. They are real life oriented and missional in focus. Great place for congregations to work together with clarity and common direction.
      BTW, you gotta quit posting adorable baby pix on fb! Makes the rest of us look bad.

  9. Pingback: Inviting (Not Welcoming) in Bite-Sized Chunks. Pt. 3 | Neighborhood Church

  10. Pingback: An Inviting Environment (No Longer Welcoming, Pt. 4) | Neighborhood Church

  11. PS anafterthought

    Not a welcoming blog either. Can’t read beyond the headline, due to the “wooden” back ground.

    • Hmmm… Sorry about that. Others have not had that problem. Try using a different browser?

      • Nancy Robinson

        I find it nearly impossible to read the dark print on a dark background. Our Episcopal Diocese had a link to your article which somehow switched it to black on white. I am familiar with many web sites, as a glass artist, and most have switched to lighter backgrounds for ease of reading.

      • On some computers it is slower to load fully. Once it does, the black print on white appears.

  12. Ken

    A friend posted this on Facebook. My first reaction on seeing the headline was that you were rejecting inclusivity.

    • Ahhh, the trap of a sneaky title.

      • Margaret Wood

        You caught me in the trap. I think what you are doing is wonderful. Jesus made disciples and sent them out.

      • Thank you, Margaret. I think Jesus discovered it’s easier said than done, however. It is a struggle, but one we must take on as disciples.

  13. very encouraging and right on time

    • Thanks. The old stuff and the shallow stuff will no longer cut it. If we arent thinking major changes, we’re spinning our wheels.

  14. Rob, thank you. The Holy Spirit must be at work because this is what our Episcopal congregation in a small western KY town is struggling with. For many the thought of inviting someone to church is petrifying – even for many who are engaged here completely. Also in my 6 years here I am still struggling to help us to see what our gifts are that the community needs – they are here in spades, but so close the congregation is having trouble seeing them. Thanks for the words and any other insights you might have.

    • Candyce, I pray the leading of the Holy Spirit as you continue this journey. Nothing about it is easy, in my experience, which means we need to support and encourage one another on the way. God’s peace to you and your congregation.

  15. here’s a thought. How about being invitational by becoming more “out-going?” One observation about the term “inviting” is that your, or any church’s intention, is for guests to come to a particular activity, program, worship service, or event. These are worthwhile and important activities in terms of nurturing and fostering a healthy Christian community. That being said the purpose of such intentions is still for people to “come to us.” How might we accomplish this result and build upon it by becoming more present and offering more presence outside of our walls and church properties too. I find myself praying, pondering, and considering how the Episcopal parish I serve can regain some of its connections and relationships with the people and other community groups in our neighborhood and more widely in our city. It seems to me we at our church need to do a better job of connecting with people where they are with the hope that what we have going on inside and outside of our worship services and other “programs” invites people to join us on our Christian pilgrimage.

    • Jim,
      You are exactly right. The temptation is always to invite “for our sake,” i.e., to make the church bigger. Getting them to come to us isn’t the point. It’s recognizing who we are as a congregation, what gifts we have, what we need to learn, and connecting with people in the neighborhood around that. When we have something beneficial to offer, we need to be able to speak to that. When someone else has something to offer us, we readily accept their invitation as well. I believe you’re contemplation on this topic is spot on. I would ask how we can help our people engage in and with the community as Christian people.

      • an episcopalian in nyc

        The tone and tenor of your blog posts on this topic certainly do not make your church seem inviting. In fact, were I to be invited after having read your lengthy attempts to justify becoming “non-welcoming” which is what you say in every way other than using those exact words, I would run the other way. Frankly, it sounds like what the Catholic Church is going through in attempting to return to its prior “look and feel” through reinstating traditional spiritual techniques like paying for indulgences based on the size of the sin. Too many Catholics realized that the morality legislated by the Vatican (no birth control, priests can’t marry, no female priests) resulted pushing people away from God, so they responded by tightening the ranks rather than ministering to the needs of the people. They didn’t trust God to steer them into modern times without alowing change to destroy the church. Instead, they chose their own greed for power and control. (enough about the Catholic Church)……I understand that you might have gone too far into the “letter” of some “contemporary congregational” techniques book and forcefully inserted new ways of worship without seeing whether they made any sense for your current community. I get that. However, the more I read, and the more you push the “no longer welcoming” angle, the more I simply believe that you are not just abandoning the sillyness you tried for a hot second, but you really do want to close ranks and only Invite those who look, think, feel, and believe just like you and your congregation do, always have, and always will. The only thing constant is Change. Jesus was a revolutionary, not a traditionalist. The community doesn’t exist to be selectively invited by the church. The church exists for the community, to serve the needs of the community, because the church is a building, and the family of God doesn’t require an invitation.

      • an episcopalian in nyc

        i fogot to add…… if you look at your recent comment: “…It’s recognizing who we are as a congregation, what gifts we have, what we need to learn, and connecting with people in the neighborhood around that. When we have something beneficial to offer, we need to be able to speak to that. When someone else has something to offer us, we readily accept their invitation as well.” how many times do you use the word WE? How many times do you refer to Jesus or God? This type of language is always a symptom of someone who’s more enthralled with religion than with God.

      • Thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts, especially since you so vehemently disagree. A few things come to mind: 1) apparently my post pricked you in some way, as your response seems relatively angry. My guess is that your experiences with exclusive churches (as you articulate regarding the Roman Catholic church) have really sensitized you to exclusivity (and rightly so!). My intention in sharing this particular post is to help us as church get out of our exclusive comfort zone. Invitation (part of relationships in the world) is for the sake of the world–whoever they may be.
        2) I’m sorry, but I kinda laughed out loud when you referred to me as someone more enthralled with religion than with God. That is, honestly, the first time I’ve ever been accused of that! Though I’ll do a gut check with your accusation, I’m thinking that you read this post differently than I meant it. Perhaps because of #1 above?
        3) Thanks for calling attention to my lack of the use of God’s name and mission in this particular post. I guess I’ve spoken and written so often about the church’s very identity as people called by the Holy Spirit through the death and resurrection of Jesus into God’s salvific mission of care and redemption of all creation that I made an assumption that that was understood. I apologize for that.

      • I had the same concern as I read this article. “Inviting” still sounds (to most people, but especially my mainline brethren) like “get them in the building” or “get them to our program” or some other version of a cattle drive. Words matter here, particularly given the mission we’re about. I love the whole point (I really didn’t miss it!) of your article, but this word didn’t create enough separation for me. Not sure what other word to use, but something along the lines of “outgoing” as suggested above would be clearer, I think. “Serving” or (as my friend Jim Henderson says) “otherly” would also be pretty good.

  16. Andrea

    A great idea. I wish you all The Blessings in your mission.

  17. Andrea

    Imagine the obsticles Jesus and His Apostles had to face. Death being the one that would be a huge one for me. One they continued so we can know and love Him. So on we shall all continue. GOD BLESS YOU ALL!!!!!!

  18. I’ve been saying this same thing about “welcoming” vs. “inviting” for a few years, since I started at YDS. I’d love to keep up with what directions this takes you in!

    • We’re in the throes of it. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens too. Some simply will not leave the comfort of their pew, others embrace the opportunity and encouragement to look outward.

      • Sue Tannehill

        I am a Quaker from the liberal unprogrammed tradition, so I am coming from a different facet of God’s Light as expressed by many people. One thing I would share is that every 5-7 years someone in our meeting for worship raises up our need for a corporate witness. We engage in conversation, and wait in worship, and over and over again what rises up for us is that so many individuals in our meeting (25 people for worship is about average) have individual witnesses. One runs a program that sends scholarship to indigenous Bolivian Quakers whose poverty prevents them from attending school. Another spends all her vacation in Chiapas Mexico assisting in a hospital run by nuns who serve all who come. Another works writing book trying to articulate what Friends’ practices might have to share with the world of other faith communities who struggle with business issues in a church. Another works as a retired social worker helping those who come to St. Vincent DePaul. Some work for pay, others volunteer, but all are following the work to which they feel God has led them. At some point in all this heartfelt conversation, we realize that the depth of our meeting for worship IS our corporate witness — that those who come to meeting for worship on Sundays (or First Day to use our quaint title) need a deep well from which to drink so that they can go out and serve. So, perhaps those who are comfortable in their pews have this one hour at church where they can feel the restorative power of God’s love in their lives and remember that they are loved children of God, despite whatever messages they are hearing the other days of the week. To me this is a critical part of corporate worship. Gathered together, we amplify one another’s receptors, we tune our ears to Scripture and song and prepare to but on the breastplate of the armor of Christ when the final benediction is offered. When the worship is deep and gathered, we cannot do anything but serve, whether we are kind to our neighbor, or serve in a homeless shelter or simply live our lives, being kind and helpful to all we meet. I am reminded of the (probably apocryphal) statement of St. Francis “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”
        Thanks for giving me an opportunity to consider why “invitation” seems still not to be quite it, unless you include inviting the people in your congregation already to a deeper place of abiding faith. If I invite you to my place, I am having a party, and you still have to accept my invitation if you want to share it. Jesus didn’t invite people — he healed them without asking them to do anything outside of their comfort zone, except maybe to ask for help.
        I’ll be interested to see what you do with all this. As I said at the beginning, our faith community works in a different way, but I am often uplifted and instructed by those who are also to be found in the large tent of Christianity.

      • Sue,
        That is the most gracious disagree I’ve ever encountered! I love the passion and community involvement you express here. That would be the ideal in many ways for me. We are trying to get past a “my faith is a private matter between Jesus and me” mindset, which is so pervasive. One step is to admit in the broader community that we are disciples, that the service we do is an expression of faith, and that our congregation can be a light in the darkness–available to any who want to be part of it.Thanks for your witness. God’s blessings.
        Rob Moss

  19. I’ll admit that I haven’t read everything here, but this is my take. Yes, a church needs to be inviting…but a church also needs to be welcoming. They go hand-in-hand.

    • Indeed, Ivan. Inviting and Welcoming are hardly mutually exclusive. If you do one, you need to do the other well. Our problem is that we generally put all our emphasis on welcoming, then sit back and wonder why no one knows who we are. Engagement in the community around the church should be a given. We go as people sent. Not for our sake or the sake of the church, but for the sake of the world.

  20. Forget it!

    Copying another program from another book; another setup for failure.

    How about just reading the bible where Jesus told His disciples to go out in the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s Love and preach the Gospel to somebody…… Somebody on the bus, the under ground train, in the bagel shop, the barber shop, the waiting room at the Med centre. The barman, the hobo woman, the elders on the church board; even the pastor!

    Why is that too hard for struggling churches to actually do it God’s Way?

    If you and your congregation don’t know God the Holy Spirit; then I would put forward the simple task of seeking and crying out to know Him, God The Holy Spirit. Even if it takes forever.

    How will you know if He’s present?

    You won’t even have to ask, you’ll know that you’ll know He’s there!

    No Holy Spirit moving in your church…. No Jesus!!!

    Just like all the religious leaders not recognising Him when He came in the flesh

    • Hi Andy Ewing,
      I wonder what Holy Spirit you are talking about? Because the Spirit you are using to write, is hardly the one from the Holy Spirit I read about in Galatians 5,22-23.
      I wonder if you even know this church we are reading about? If you have visited them and experienced their worship and spirit! How can you judge them from a far, saying … “No Holy Spirit moving in your church”.
      Instead of encouraging, you are just blatantly judgemental. Yes, you can even disagree, like some writers above, but in your writing there is nothing but negative, know-it-all and judgemental spirit, (hardly a gift from the Holy Spirit).
      I feel sorry for you, because if Jesus would have approached this congregation he would have looked at their intention and the hearts of this church, and to what I read about, they are on the right way and place.
      The worst part is that you didn’t even read the article above. Because what you are saying they should do, they are willing to do now. I’m taking a wild guess, that you are a member of a so called “Spirit-filled” church, sadly your comment shows little of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
      I applaude this church for going out and trying their best.
      I wish this church all Gods blessings and the guidance of the Holy Spirit to reach as many people as possible.

  21. Ann Locasio

    At my church, Trinity United Methodist Church in Austin, Texas, we’ve been doing the ‘inviting’ thing for a long time, albeit not using that label. In 1992, we became a reconciling congregation, the first United Methodist congregation in our annual conference to publicly state that we welcomed gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons and considered them partners in ministry as much as anyone else. Doing that turned out to be an incredibly ‘inviting’ move, because as word got out, not just gay people but younger people, people in wheelchairs, and people of other races decided that if we welcomed gays when hardly anyone else seemed to, then we might welcome them too! Besides that, we provide books and other resources to children and their families at a nearby low-income elementary school, are a designated cold weather shelter for homeless men on cold winter nights, operate a food pantry, and do a few other neighborhood ministries. We have more work to do to become racially diverse but we’re working on it. The idea of ‘inviting’ versus ‘welcoming’ stirred my imagination as I think Trinity is on a journey of continuously becoming more of both.

    • Wow. Trinity UMC, Austin, TX is truly inspiring! The Holy Spirit is powerfully present and leading your ministry. May God continue to bless you as you reveal the gospel in inviting ways. Thank you for sharing your journey here.

  22. Reblogged this on The Half-Baked Academic and commented:
    “‘Inviting,’ however, is different. That means we leave the comfort of our congregational home-court advantage. The main activity doesn’t happen in our worship space when people drop in, but in the neighborhood when we go out. It isn’t so much welcoming them into our place, but going out into their place and meeting them there.”

  23. K.C. Sharpe

    I think this is an awesome article. But i think it goes even a step further. I can invite you to a “group” at my church. But it is even a little more daunting to be willing to personally walk along that person in their “grief” or what ever the issue is. Not as a counselor but as a friend who has the life of Christ abiding. Invest the time into their lives personally so that they can see Jesus though ME! Then once a relationship has been built, now i have permission to say i think you would enjoy coming to meet some friends of mine (at my church). They will be less apprehensive and more apt to come AND stay around….Just my thoughts! May God Bless this mission!!!!

    • Thanks for this response, K.C. Very helpful! Relationships are everything: from the nature of the Triune God to the work of the Holy Spirit to the nature of the church. It is what we, as church, are called to be about!
      I’ve written a small book that is being piloted by several congregations currently that gets at that very thing. If we aren’t in relationships with our neighbors we aren’t revealing God’s love in their lives.
      So, I invite you to share some of your insights on how we can help our people walk in relationship with those who need God’s love, acceptance, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. You seem to have a great heart of missional ministry! Let’s share resources.

  24. Lazarus Cornelius

    Great article and concept. Would love to get the pdf of your book as well for our church.

  25. Thomas Malcom

    Members of our little (Bethel Presbyterian) Church in Peoria, Il. would go into the community to encourage people to attend our church if they didn’t have a home church. Many would tell us, “We go to —- Church.” When asked when the last time they attended too many couldn’t remember when it was so we would invite them to attend their Church if it would be inconvenient to attend ours. Many pastors and priests contacted us to thank us for their returning flock. We did get some others to attend our Church. WE all need to help one another to bring Christ to as many as possible. Thank you for this posting. I’m reposting it to my facebook page.

  26. Our daughter has worked at looking for a church after two moves to new communities. She shares (as other younger people also have) that the best way to find a church that is truly open to people is to look for ‘Open & Affirming’ or ‘Welcoming & Affirming’ or “Reconciling,” etc. policies. I appreciate your desire to go out into the community while still inviting people to come to your church. But please don’t give up the good progress you have made at welcoming all people to your church. It is one of many ways that a church can make sure it’s ministering to people’s needs if they do accept invitations to come to church. We have asked people in our community what they perceive their needs to be — as part of a ‘missional church’ emphasis. It is very enlightening to engage them in conversation and find out what they see as their needs. Of course, children’s educational programs are often cited, but sometimes other needs — and a surprising number of people respond that they really have all they seem to need. This suggests to me that church members need to focus on what their own perception of community needs might be and to realize that many people (whether attending another church or not) have no perceived need for services offered by the inquiring church. I agree we can only say what we offer and then politely invite. Our experience is that a significant number of people actively resent communications from our church and have strongly indicated they want to be taken off of any kind of residents contact list. Perhaps that leads to cardinal rule #1 — that we are dealing with real people and cannot treat them as ‘prospects.’

  27. Gina Halter

    Out church as designated 2013 as the year of Radical Hospitality. Our first task was to try to define what that looks and feels like. I couldn’t wait to pass this one talk about hitting the nail on the head. Hard work for sure but good luck

  28. eve evans

    Our church of Whitesboro first Presbyterian is a Good inviting fellowship in tx and God people that is moving and relief, journey, and feel good ,food to be happy and move spiritual community and God loves real fabric of life growing relationship and the temple of cleaning purification and grace forgiving and leadership .

  29. Pingback: To Welcome or To Invite | buildingfaith

  30. Anne Kenniston

    In order to read this, I had to copy it into a word document. If you plan to continue to post your columns on this dark paneling, may I suggest you change your font size, style, and/or color?

    • Anne Kenniston

      Never mind! It hadn’t fully loaded!
      I’m sorry . . .

  31. jnbuz

    Will you be “welcoming” you gay brothers & sisters? Or “inviting” us to join your family?

    • Which would you rather? I, knowing (or not) you are gay, invite you experience authentic community in love and grace, or you, not knowing how you may be welcomed, wander in and take your chances? If you read through the articles, you soon discover welcoming and inviting are hardly mutually exclusive! Thanks for the response.

      • Sorry, but this definitely comes across (to me) as a very ambiguous answer to a legitimate question.

      • I assumed from the use of the phrase ‘welcoming church’ that you were referring to a policy of inclusiveness — being accepting and affirming of gay and lesbian people (since that is a common understanding of the phrase in churches all across the country). But I may have been mistaken. In my searching of many pages of your blog (and the Facebook page) I found only one instance of the word “gay,” which was used in a question regarding the church’s need to go and observe the community. “Do you see any gay couples?” you asked. The question was unanswered — and apparently the subject was never mentioned before or after that one incidental reference.

        Well, I know, as a matter of fact, that there ARE gay couples in Lakewood, CO, as I happen to have gay friends who lived and worked there for many years and participated in the gay culture that exists in virtually all major metropolitan areas but goes unnoticed by the majority of straight people. I was actually surprised to see the one lone reference, since it seems obvious to me that the subject is studiously avoided in your sermons and in your church’s life. That, I suppose, is a good thing in that it may (or may not) imply acceptance. However, I would be apprehensive as a gay person to coming and finding out based on a blanket statement of “love and community.” A plethora of churches, organizations, and pundits claim to be loving (often “loving the sinner but hating the sin,” etc.) toward gay and lesbian people, but when pressed they turn out to be urging ex-gay therapy or other approaches that are far from truly accepting of individual persons or of a life situation that is quite different from their own.

        Of course, I am aware from reading your blog that you show little or no interest in being involved with any open consideration of these issues — at least not publicly. So, I won’t belabor it further — but I do sincerely hope that in your missional outreach your church does indeed meet some gay and lesbian people, because it’s only in getting to know gay people (as in getting to know other people) that one may truly learn to love and appreciate them. Thanks for listening, Pastor Rob!

        PS – It may be just as well to stop saying you are a welcoming church, since that is misleading.

      • I thank you for a thorough and well thought response. Though in this blog post I wasn’t using the term “welcoming” specifically as it relates to GLBT persons, I value you raising it so clearly.
        It’s difficult, I’m discovering, to have all my social media messages say equally inclusive things equally. What I mean is that my FB page has frequent messages of support for marriage rights, open support for GLBT issues, many calls for the necessity for Christian churches to be open and affirming to our GLBT brothers and sisters. My congregation is quite aware, and generally supportive of these positions. Partly because inclusiveness, specifically regarding GLBT sisters and brothers, is preached by me often and strongly. My denomination has dealt squarely and openly with gay rights, adopting a policy of approving ordination of gay and lesbian people in committed relationships.
        Thank you for pointing out that this hasn’t been clear in posts on this particular blog. That will, in fact, be remedied to reflect the whole of missional theology as I live it– led by the Spirit of God. I appreciate you calling this to my attention with grace.

      • Pastor Rob, Thank you for your kind reply and the reassuring knowledge that your and the LCM church is welcoming to LGBT persons. I am actually bi myself, and my wife and I are a happily married couple of 50+ years with four grandchildren. I have a good friend who is transgender and know of at least one very courageous minister who has also made that journey (and is a pastor still — though not of the same church — and is accepted by her wife of over 40 years).

        In my own journey (engineer and an ordained minister, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), I have participated in groups of gay fathers and other men in heterosexual marriages coming out as gay). Our mentor was a dedicated Episcopal priest, now deceased, who conducted a needed group in the SF Bay Area, along with counseling and his other pastoral ministerial church work. My wife and I were among a small minority who chose to continue our marriage. I understand; however, we have been and remain in love, thanks be to God.

        My apologies for my somewhat snarky PS. I meant to say that others might interpret the phrase the same way I did. I would love to have the address of your Facebook page, as I don’t think I ever found the right one. Again, I am delighted to know of your strong support and active work on behalf of openness in your church. God bless, and best wishes for your missional outreach.

  32. Reblogged this on The Goodness of God.

  33. very timely post by a friend on FB. Our church is also on this path, praying for further guidance while we take baby steps in God’s direction. Praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you and uphold your efforts.

  34. Reblogged this on Reflections of a Pastor Couple and commented:
    This has got me thinking about my own church’s transformation.

  35. Thank you very much for this. I just took my local church in Downtown San Bernardino, Ca. (yes one of the cities in Ca. that has claimed bankruptcy) and we are no longer welcoming either. We spent two years reading through the book of ACTS and trying to figure out how we recapture what they had in order to regrow the church. What we decided is that our purpose is to Invite and Nurture individuals into a deeply committed relationship with Jesus Christ. Our Vision for accomplishing that is to be a church of ACTS: Aspiring to Be Like Christ, Changing our Community, Transforming One Life at a Time as we are Sharing Hope in God’s Grace. When we do that we will be fulfilling our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World. That beings when we help them I.N. (invite and nurture) a deeply committed relationship with Jesus. Our motto is that we no longer invite people to our church, but to that deeper relationship with Jesus and if they decide to stay, that is our blessing. But it must begin with an invitation.

  36. v2787

    When I was a teenager (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), my family belonged to a Southern Baptist church. Once or twice a year this church would mount an offensive (and I use the word purposely, because it was indeed “offensive”) and would send its members out into the neighborhood to knock on doors in an effort to “take back the world for Christ.” Looking back on those experiences, I now understand that it was extremely arrogant and hubristic to knock on the doors of strangers and ask them whether 1) they knew whether they would go to hell if they died tonight, and 2) they knew Jesus Christ as their personal savior. I remember feeling silly and embarrassed by having to do this, but the church essentially demanded that we take part in this little exercise. With memories and experiences like this, you’ll pardon me if I pass on the invitation stuff. God is perfectly capable of working in the world with or without my participation, and I’m much rather focus on living my life through example rather than engaging in neighborhood evangelism. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and have moved on.

    • Actually, I couldn’t agree with you more. This isn’t about the church, it’s about what God is doing in the neighborhood. Threats and manipulation have no place in the church. But when, through your gracious and compassionate actions, relationships develop, and the friend trusts you enough to broach the topic of faith and spirituality, what will we say? Authentic relationships, complete with open trust, are key elements of our faith. Getting people into the church isn’t the measure of success. Serving the world, in whatever shape that takes (even if that means including others in our community of faith), is. Thanks for the conversation. God’s peace.

    • Gene A Dees

      When I lived back east I used to have to endure this sort of door-to-door assault all the time. My favorite one happened just after the movers left and we were beginning to unpack boxes at the beach house in VA Beach. There was a knock at the door and I looked up from a box. The man of the family asked if he and his family could come inside while he talked to me about “homosexuals and nuclear weapons” ! I’m sorry but my answer could have been phrased better but I was tired. I yelled upstairs to my wife: “RE-PACK THE BOXES, DEAR! WE HAVE TO GET OUTTA HERE! THE HOMOS HAVE GOT THE BOMB !!!” OK, I was a little embarrassed but they did leave us alone after that. I have had visits since then and most of them have been Johovah’s Witnesses … ladies that traveled in beveys. Nice ladies, though. In California, they became my Thursday social group. Didn’t buy into their thing but they didn’t bother me about it, though.

  37. Reblogged this on K.C. Wahe and commented:
    “Inviting,” however, is different. That means we leave the comfort of our congregational home-court advantage. The main activity doesn’t happen in our worship space when people drop in, but in the neighborhood when we go out. It isn’t so much welcoming them into our place, but going out into their place and meeting them there.”

  38. “Moderation” ? Uh-Oh! I guess that bakes my response to v2780. Hope y’all don’t take offense to mine. Wasn’t intended that way.

  39. Sharon

    Very insightful blog. Our church thinks they are welcoming and inviting. I keep encouraging them to be inviting but being in an over 100 year old church in a small town it is hard to get new people to come. I would love to read your PDF of your book if you would share it one more time. Blessings in your invitational work.

  40. Good thinking! However, I don’t feel the dichotomy is needed. As the church, the Body of Christ, we can (and should) be welcoming and inviting. The Church should exude a genuine welcoming heart and welcoming environment into which those the church invites may enter. Truly, the mission of the Church, the missio Dei, and its necessarily Trinitarian relationality, is important. This separation (although making for engaging reading) and push to further define missional, I believe, is somewhat passé. Christ followers aren’t either or, but , empowered by God the Holy Spirit, both.

  41. Laura Monteros

    My church–laity and leadership–has no idea what this means. You are really talking evangelism, and that is an antisocial word to them. It is more complex than I can get into here due to the ethnic makeup of the church and the economic and ethnic makeup of the community, but I see little willingness to learn or change.

  42. Mike McClenahan

    I love the missional conversation, but I’m confused by the words “welcoming” and “inviting” and not sure why they are mutually exclusive. If by welcoming you mean “attractional” then I agree with what you have written. If by “invitational” you mean “entering into the lives of others” in our neighborhoods and inviting them into the church, I’m still not sure.

    I believe our existing, mainline churches are mostly unwelcoming to the visitor because we sit in the same seats, make the same path to the coffee, talk to the same people, nurture existing relationships and we as pastors tend to preach to the oldest members (who are not necessarily the most mature or most growing). I believe we can become welcoming and remain authentic to who we are. We don’t have to change our music, compromise theology or gear everything to the visitor. We can only be who God has created us to be, but imagine saying “I’m going to invite people to a party but not welcome them.”

    When we enter into the neighborhood, change our friendship patterns, care about the lost, invite them to join us for worship and they come, what will they find when they come? If they are not welcomed and instead find a club that’s already full, then we have not practiced hospitality, we have not welcomed the stranger.

    I think we are on the same page about missional and the call of the church. I don’t think making either/or arguments helps us both enter into our neighborhoods, and practice hospitality in our church life.

  43. David Major

    I just stumbled on this. I am a disaffected Anglican, put off by the focus on personal salvation from sin and the cherry picking towards the Creation where only the ‘bright and beautiful” gets a nod. Linked to that fundamental approach which gets trotted out regularly in the liturgy is the ongoing hangup about gender and haughty dismissiveness towards things awkward, unappealing and uncomfortable in the world, and the notion that God is in the church while everone outside those four walls are “lost”. I found the dissonances too much and quit choir. Meantime someone put me on to Matthew Fox’ The Original Blessing. I find that perspective with all its historical background pointing to the issues you seem to be confronting. What would you say?
    Thanks for your blog…

  44. Re-posted this on http://facebook.com/practicingparadoxy and will be re-blogging at http://practicingparadoxy.com as an example of incarnational Christian community. This paradigm shift from welcoming to inviting is something my congregation has been striving for since we planted it a little over a decade and a half ago. We’ve learned a lot and are still learning. Wrote a book entitled “Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them” and started the Paradoxy Center for Incarnational Christianity as a way to both share what we’ve learned and to learn more from others walking similar paths. Would love to compare notes along the way.

  45. Daniel Lee

    Great indights!! We have a low income apartment complex across the street from our church. For 4 years now we have had an on going ministry center in one of the apartments. From day one, I have told our church, the goal isn’t to see how many of them we can get in here, but how many of you can we get over there. Look for multi house places to practice the inviting church concept.

  46. I wish you the best. Changing from “welcoming” to “inviting” is a shift in spiritual practice, and like all spiritual practices will require leadership and consistent effort over time.

    My reaction is that “inviting” should probably be focused on relationships within the congregation as well as developing new relationships.

    I am reminded of an incident within my own church: I do appliance repair for a living. One day one of my customers was a fellow parishoner. Now I’d been going to this church for 3 years, one of my kids is an acolyte, they both sing, I was on the Vestry, etc., etc. We’d been involved.

    As is very usual for “knowledge workers” such as academics and lawyers, my customer was rude and sarcastic. (I think there’s a loss of face when people in these lines of work must deal with us dusty and sweaty types.) When I had her machine repaired, she looked at me with an odd look and said, “so where do I know you from?”

    “We’ve been going to the same church for about three years now,” I replied. There was a look of horror on her face and I’d like to say I had the grace to not be amused by it.

    My point is that my church is very much a “back of the head” church. The relationships there are years long and inches deep. I have shifted my spiritual practices away from that church because I am not developing the relationships there that would nourish me in my own spiritual journey.

    I know part of that is on me, but part of that is also on the culture within the congregation. As you work to change the culture in your congregation, I hope you can find ways to challenge people to develop new and stronger bounds among those who already attend.

    • Thanks for sharing this. Relationships, both within and outside of the congregation, are where God historically works most profoundly.

  47. I haven’t read all the comments, so this has probably been said, but my question is, “Why do you have to choose?” I’d hope our vision would make us naturally inviting and welcoming. And not so much because we coach everyone, but because people are excited about sharing what we are with others, whether out in the ‘marketplace’ or on our ‘homecourt.’

    Nonetheless, I appreciate your intentional wrestling with what it means to be church in the world. Thanks for thoughts.

  48. Great thoughts – to move from self-serving to serving God and mankind. Thanks for this post!

    I am thinking the next move would be from an inviting church to a responsive church – a church that responds to its community’s hunger for love, connection, meaning, healing. Totally selfless.

  49. John Bridwell (age 91)

    Great idea! We called it “evangelism.”

  50. Joel

    without reading other postings of your blog etc. – you might state this elsewhere – but I think part of it also includes “inviting” those in the church to get out! Not in the sense of “don’t come back no more….” But rather in the sense of inviting them to see that the mission of God, the mission of God’s church is found more often elsewhere than the church property. So the invitation is not just to those who are not part of the church, but in some ways it is more profoundly the Inviting church is one that invites us each into whereever the mission of God is leading us.

  51. Karen Cohran

    WOW….just when Peace in Christ was going”now what” we get an answer!! His timing is fantastic…..now that we are a’real’ church it is time to take His message out of our doors….with Pentecost fast approaching to go and make disciples seems more urgent than ever. Thank you for the insight on ‘iniviting’ rather than ‘welcoming’.

  52. Thanks so much for this post. I am excited to read the others now and to use them in my ministry, The Church Guide, to help “church searchers” find good churches and to help churches become good choices for searchers. If you are still giving away free PDF’s of your book, I would love a copy. I will trade you for a digital copy of my book, “I’ve Moved. Help me Find a Church.”

    My ministry partner and I are both United Methodist, and we believe strongly that this topic desperately needs to occur more intensively and more often in the United Methodist Church. We carry the conversation into the churches we visit and work with. Unfortunately, us Methodists have hung our evangelism hats on the “welcoming” rack for a long time. We even have significant recognition for “Welcoming Congregations.”

    On a personal note, I grew up in Cushing, Oklahoma and was confirmed at Church of the Redeemer Lutheran Church. We lived outside of Cushing close to the Hwy 18 and Hwy 33 intersection. I do not remember Immanuel Lutheran.

    Really appreciate your conversations here. Wish you God’s grace and guidance in our movement forward.

    • Reba, I was good friends with Pastor Don Haase at Redeemer in Cushing! Immanuel was about 9 miles south of town (actually closer to Stroud). Small world!
      Lutherans are “all in” on the welcoming stuff too. Although some have misread my article, welcoming is still important–it just can’t be *all* we do. In metro Denver there is little perceived use for the church–folks really aren’t looking.
      I quit giving away my book, as I’ve got over 50 pilot congregations “testing” it. I want to keep track of the input for the final version.

      • Rob, I grew up with Pastor Don.
        Sounds like your book is taking off. That is wonderful and so important. As you know, Denver reflects the common approach most people have towards the church. My friends and I started our ministry because we see churches not equipping people to grow in their faith by helping them find a new connection in a new part of the body of Christ. We focus so much on bringing people into the body and discipling them (which is still up for debate as to whether many churches are actually doing this) that we’ve set adrift valuable Kingdom resources. People are left to find their own way with no help or direction to keep moving forward in their faith while looking for a new faith community.
        We provide both churches and people looking for a new church connection resources to make that next step in the journey fruitful for everyone.
        Will wait with anticipation for your book to come out.

  53. God is santa claus for adults

    Please stay away from my house.

  54. Pingback: We will no longer be a welcoming church | Presbytery of Newton Blog

  55. Pingback: From Welcoming to Inviting | St. Patrick's Episcopal Church

  56. Pingback: Sticking with being a welcoming church

  57. Litugy Junkie

    As a person who works within the national structure of a mainline denomination, though not an ordained clergyperson, I often visit churches – sometimes without letting them know I’m coming. I have also moved to new communities several times in this position. I’ve done my share of church shopping. Whether inviting, welcoming, affirming, all-inclusive, or whatever the label – I am always interested in the way the people treat each other as they are welcoming (or excluding or smothering) me. If there is a sense of genuine concern for each other, I feel welcomed (or invited or included). If I sense clicqishness, pettiness, or general dislike among the regulars, I know that this will not be a place for me. I am particularly intrigued when someone “welcomes” me with a complaint about the pastor or the leadership. And when a person tells me that I am “sitting in their pew,” you can be sure I won’t be back and that I will have a little heart-to-heart conversation with the pastor afterward. It’s not about your worship style, the quality of your praise band, the size of your organ, or the quality of your preacher – it’s about how you are to each other when you think others aren’t watching.

    • Karen Cochran

      So very true! One ‘baptism’ our infant church needed to learn…we participated in Natural Church Development and found that it opened eyes and we went from exclusive and cliquish to welcoming and now inviting! Really makes a difference to see your church in the eyes of a visitor.

    • micaylah

      I have to say that I agree with LJ. Due to circumstances and my own interest I have been exposed to many different faiths and their approach to new folks. In some cases I have indeed felt very welcomed, and yet others have little to no use for making the “new person” at least feel comfortable being in the building, let alone participating in the spiritual journey that day.

      Inviting just seems like a lazy (inertia), or insular way out of being a welcoming group. What is not functioning that one needs to change that? Perhaps inner reflection of doctrine and self observance should be engaged before making such a sweeping determination. If it proves that the case is internal, changing formats will surely not solve the issue. If anything it will exacerbate it.

      It took me several reads to really understand what is being said, and bottom line; it is the people that make the “church”, not the trappings nor the building. In the case of an inviting church, it seems the doctrine has more importance than the true vision of a personal and spiritual and welcoming journey. Which is why I called this elitist and insular in a previous post. Assimilation is for the main 3 R’s in my opinion and that is what I see is in the definition of “inviting”.

  58. We invite ALL for edification, music and more…. If we can be of any help in cyberspace, do not hesitate to ask….

  59. Marie

    Thanks for this blog. For me it reminds me of the move from “accepting” to “including”. Faith communities start with accepting, but the end must be including. Else we still have separate but equal.

  60. Chad Eddy

    Thanks Rob. Great article! I look forward to reading more as my church also navigates these waters.

  61. This is a great read and s reminder of why God chose me to find folo – Fellowship of Love Outreach Church in Ft Worth Texas.
    Our church is a community of believers with Jesus Christ as its head. We seek to love, respect and care for one another as a demonstration of our love for God.Our outreach is to those who have no church home or are looking for an upbeat way to worship the Lord. Many in our community are disillusioned with religion. They have felt the sting of legalism with its impossible demands. Some have seen hypocrisy. Others have had no religious background and therefore see Christianity as irrelevant. The missing element has been healthy relationships with mature believers in Jesus.
    Visit us at http://www.folochurch. org

  62. lee carlton

    Perhaps we should be asking ourselves, did Jesus really intend that we build a physcial church, complete with rules and structure or a spiritual universal church as the dominion of God in the hearts of humanity in the world? Why it is that we spend so much time and money in building beautiful building and denominational structures, while praying ‘Thy dominion come on earth as it is in heaven”?Why do we love singing in church about ‘looking for a city’; ‘wherein is no temple, to be found’. What a contradiction!

  63. hmm… interesting and good point in the end – however being a “welcoming church” is also considered short hand for being a “welcoming and affirming church” which means you are accepting (and affirming) of the LGBTQ community (without a missional desire to change them) into your community. So from that perspective your headline reads quite different.

  64. Pingback: We will no longer be a welcoming church. An interesting blog… | Christian Science Society in Jamaica Plain

  65. micaylah

    How very elitist of you.

  66. Planting Potatoes

    very good…..after all, Jesus did not sit in a building and have his disciples bring people to him…..he was always going to someone’s house…..he was a part of our world…. very good read!

  67. It seems to me that whether we are welcoming or inviting or both that we put too much in the visibility of our results. Often people go somewhere else no matter what you do. Our mission is to plant the seed and the growing will happen.

  68. gregory

    can you do this without comparing and contrasting, which are signs of co-dependency and addiction. Just stand up and announce what you are doing without putting anything down. You reveal your patriarchal substrates

  69. Pingback: Not Sitting Around | on the chancel steps

  70. Great post. What you write about is very much at the heart of our ministry and something we continuously write about ourselves. Even now, God is calling us completely out of a central worshipping location. This fall, we will leave our building and move our church into the world via our existing “Grow Communities.” I thoroughly believe more churches will need to make these shifts to a more missional, discipleship-driven practices, or what I call “Centrifugal Church”, in order for the Church to reach the ever growing non-Christian population in the U. S.


  71. Missy Donkers

    The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour in Faribault, MN would like to publish your article in our newsletter. May we have your permission?

    • Of course. May the Holy Spirit inspire at The Cathedral of Our Merciful Saviour deep conversations and actions in keeping with God’s mission in the world!

  72. Pingback: I Don’t Want a “Welcoming” Church… | Doug Abel | Here Am I

  73. Pingback: Inviting them in | Rebeccah Whitlock

  74. Pingback: Onward to 2014 | St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Auburn, Maine

  75. Johne994

    Hi there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us beneficial information to work on. You have done a marvellous job! fddbkegkeadk

  76. cedarunited

    Reblogged this on Ponderings.

  77. Suzanne S.

    In my travels, whether being welcomed or invited – it all seems very superficial and that is why so many people don’t like church. People smile at you, shake your hand, ask a question and then they have done their duty so they go back to their friends and no one in the church ever does more than that. I am a great networker so I actually go to church events and get conversations rolling because no one wants to have real conversations with anyone but their friends. I know people are busy but at least they could introduce new people to other new people. After my travels, I think every church should have a conversational etiquette and how to make friends class. If this social butterfly has this problem, how do you think those who are shy, lonely or wounded feel?

  78. Terry

    Go and give without an agenda, without expectations of any kind except to lift someone up who’s struggling, without one drop of judgement. Listen to their story, if they want to share. Ask only one question, what do they need…please, don’t even be tempted to say God bless you or God loves you! If anything, tell them YOU love them and care. Leave your contact info, not your churches, if you want…or just leave. They will get the message of love and that’s the only message that is needed.

    Be real, from your heart or forget it!

  79. Jacques Pourciau

    I guess every parish has it’s own gifts and challenges. We’ve long been inviting and need to develop our welcoming. Tons of ministries bringing in all kinds of people. We can’t get them to come to Mass on Sunday with any regularity. Being welcoming can’t hurt.

  80. What Is

    I used to belong to an “inviting” church. We had exciting things going on. Big music programs. Sunday school for all ages. Youth groups, college groups. I wanted everyone I knew to come experience it, as did most others. We regularly had at least 25% of the congregation made up of visitors each week.

    Then the leadership changed. The pastor is now an insecure man with a constant need for affirmation. He wants people to laugh, to applaud, to LOVE him. He pushed out every single staff member who wanted to do things the way we had done them for years. Groups fell apart. The music programs evaporated.

    “Invite your friends,” he said. Well, since many of us are embarrassed by him, we won’t do that. It has nothing to do with being “welcoming” or “inviting.” It’s about poor leadership. A church with poor leadership cannot be “inviting,” no matter how much the congregation wants it to be.

    And there are far more terrible pastors out there than good ones. Trust me, I’ve looked.

  81. Reblogged this on Matt's Morning Reflections and commented:
    I’m in! And this is a powerful read. He’s serious too.

  82. Very thought provoking. I think fear of rejection plays a big role now in not inviting people to church.

  83. jerry

    It’s funny how a God fearing church can close its doors to thou’s who need to hear the words of christ the most, while the one’s that sit inside that church have now become judge and jury and choose to cast others out. Hmmm some where a long the line I think you forgot what christ and the church was all about ( to teach and love and not to judge but all are welcome in the house of the Lord ) May God have mercy on your souls. I will be praying for you all.

    • Hi, Jerry. For one who decries judgmentalism, you probably should have actually read the post before passing judgement. I would invite you to do so, and comment again then. Thanks.

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