I recently read this story on the UUA Website in their article “Newcomer Hospitality and Belonging: Membership Matters”:
Welcoming requires attention, intentionality and practice!
“We had greeters at the doors, a welcome table for visitors, nametags, packets we mailed to people and lots of activities for adults and children. Extroverts can pretty easily find their way into our community. But when we heard from two different visitors that no one talked to them when they came, we realized we weren't as friendly as we thought. It's no comfort to know, from visiting other UU [Unitarian Universalist] churches, that we're not alone in finding this a challenge.”
—Sharon Blevins, All Souls Unitarian Church in Kansas City.
We might think this doesn’t happen at First U. Think again – they are not alone in Kansas City. In fact, here too, we have received feedback that we’re not as friendly as we thought. While some guests have made it through the Parish Hall maze after church, others report that no one spoke to them after they were greeted at the door. One recent guest reported she tried us three times because she really likes our principles and values, only to be left alone all three times. She is not returning. Thankfully we do have success stories and as I write this article, we have nine folks enrolled in our Newcomers’ class.
As we start this new church year, I’m asking each of us to talk with folks we don’t know on Sunday mornings before going about other business or just chatting with our friends. Introduce our guests and newest members to others who share their interests. Introduce them to our minister. Take them on a tour. And speaking of tours, several folks have volunteered to put together a building tour guide, including building history, while others have volunteered to be tour guides. Maybe you would like to do this, too! You can let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, this year, we are bringing friends to church for Ingathering! I like what Mark Bernstein of the UU Church of Delaware County said about the goal of their “Friendship Sunday”: the goal was not to gain more members but was simply to “enable our friends, neighbors, and loved ones to experience the place that has brought us such joy and meaning.” Wondering what to say as you invite them? Mark asked members to tell their friends “this is a community that is very important to me, a place where I feel at home. As someone who is also important to me, I want you to see this place and meet the people who mean so much to me.” He added, “Not all of our guests in attendance [yesterday] will become members of our congregation. But they now have a better understanding and appreciation of what our faith tradition is all about and perhaps they will help us spread the good news of Unitarian Universalism as they travel about their world. Like a stone tossed into a pond creating ripples that radiate out, Friendship Sunday created ripples that may influence others we have not yet met, or in ways we may never know.” May our Ingathering experience and our welcoming community create ripples that reach near and far.
Nancy Pinson, Membership Team Lead