FIRST-PERSON: Welcoming newcomers to your neighborhood
INDIANAPOLIS (BP) -- At least one-fifth of all Americans move one or more times each year, according to the U.S. Census. A study by LifeWay Research indicates that 82 percent of unchurched people are likely to attend church if invited. That number might be even higher for people who recently moved. Statistics like these reveal a staggering mission field of new move-ins, right there in your church's neighborhood.
Why not make a church plan to welcome, serve and invite newcomers to your town?
First, establish a church-wide "Moving Van Alert." Every single church member is part of the team. You'll be amazed at how effective watchful church members can be. The assignment? To be constantly on the lookout for a moving van unloading in their neighborhood or community, and then immediately text, call or email that address to the church office. That call triggers the entire action plan, and the new resident may be welcomed before the moving van leaves the driveway!
A church may also obtain additional new move-in contacts through a newcomer service or weekly list of sold homes.
Your church's action plan could include two or more of these welcome ideas:
-- "Nearly Neighbors" contact. At least two or three church members who live near the newcomer receive an email or call, requesting they walk, bike or drive by the newcomer's home before Sunday. They merely introduce themselves as neighbors and invite them to Sunday worship. To simplify these assignments, Google Fusion Tables, a free resource, can be used to plot a map of church members' addresses.
-- "The Pizza Posse" or "We Take the Cake" team makes a quick delivery, on short notice. A church may purchase gift cards for a pizza delivery, or a church member who loves to bake could prepare a homemade dessert. The pizza card or dessert is presented with a church brochure and a note: "What's even better than pizza [or homemade cookies] on moving day? The warm welcome you'll receive when you worship at Living Faith Church this Sunday! Hope to see you there."
-- Welcome Basket delivery. A team of friendly church members prepares and delivers a newcomer basket containing a well-designed church brochure, area map and community info, and a small gift. The gift might be a Bible, a local product (i.e. Smuckers jam in Orville, Ohio), or a handmade gift, such as a "God bless this home" plate or "Welcome to Wilkesboro" ornament.
-- Welcome note. A pre-prepared welcome note from the pastor is addressed to "our new neighbors at...." It will be one of the new resident's first pieces of snail mail.
Timing is critical, but with planning and delegation, your church may greet new residents within days or hours of their move. Those brief, personal contacts may establish friendships and meet needs. God could use your invitation to impact eternity!
Now that's worth baking cookies.
Diana Davis is author of "Fresh Ideas" and "Deacon Wives" (B&H Publishing). She is an author, columnist and wife of North American Mission Board's vice president for the south region, Steve Davis. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).