“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Happy New Year! I pray that everyone had a good holiday season and are as amped up for 2018 as I am! I believe that, while 2017 was a fabulous year in many ways, 2018 has the potential to be even greater.
I spent a great deal of my time from July until December looking at our church from an outsider /newbie perspective while doing my best to keep learning the ropes. I think that while there were some hiccups along the way and some grievances by some in our church, all in all I truly believed that we accomplished a great deal. We have many new faces in our church as well as some new members. We have hosted our community several times as well as served our community. To be fair: while we have an opportunity to do more-I believe that is a fantastic start!
I believe that in order for us to continue to grow individually as well as communally of believers we need to focus on extravagant hospitality.
What does that even mean? Put another way: what areas of our ministries and church are we needing to go that extra step in welcoming new faces as well as maintaining our current members.
Let me first say extravagant hospitality is easy and not difficult. It doesn’t mean changing who we are or what we do but rather expanding on what we are and the many important things we already do.
Over the next couple months my focus as a leader and pastor of this church will be to look into how we can become even more extravagant in our hospitality. What areas of our church are we creating barriers without even realizing it? How are we creating a culture for people to not just visit once or twice but really want to stay and plug in?
I am going to challenge each and every one of us to look at what we do and how we do it. How are we welcoming people into our groups-are we even welcoming people into our groups? Do we have space for new people or are we closed off?
I believe this church has the best Methodist members in the conference. I’ve attended several UMC churches and have pastored two others so I believe that I can state with confidence that you all are such amazing people with such amazing hearts for Christ.
I am going to invite each of us to hit the pause button on our assumptions and literally ask our new faces-what can we do better or differently? What would make worship more inclusive for you so that you stay? I am sure that you are like me and wanting to get rid of the revolving door of new faces. Here this week and never to be seen again or heard from again.
I know that with more intentionality we can continue to grow this church but it all begins with extravagant and radical hospitality. Anyone remember when you were a kid and you started growing? It was so uncomfortable at times and then other times you just stood in the mirror thinking wowsers! Look how big I am now! There is no silver bullet for church growth. There are churches larger than ours in the Arkansas valley so I know that we can continue to grow. My old boss used to say “If even one other person can do it then its not impossible”.
Adam Hamilton’s UMC church in Missouri seats 3500 people with membership of…wait for it…22,000 people-average weekly attendance was 11,000 in 2014. To be completely transparent with everyone-I’m not worried as much about church growth but rather kingdom building. God doesn’t call us to build the largest church but to make disciples for the transformation of the world. Sometimes that happens on Sunday morning but more often than not it happens at the college serving pancakes, on Saturday morning with our AA groups, our veterans breakfasts, our community theatre programs so many of our members are a part of.
If we practice extravagant hospitality (getting out of the way of ourselves to truly welcome new and long-time members) I believe a side effect will be a growth in our own faith, a change in our neighborhood and community, and most likely a growth in our church membership over time. You remember the TV show Cheers? You remember the theme song where he says he wants to go-“Where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.”
Let me leave you with this question I have been praying over and trying to answer myself: How do we show people visiting our church we are glad they came?
I thank you for all that you do to make this church great. Please take time to reflect and pray over areas of hospitality that we might improve. If you come up with one about someone else or another group, please also consider ways that you or your group can also improve with extravagant hospitality. If you would like to brain storm with me please do so-I am always available to meet with committee leaders and members and discuss. It’s often hard to see the forest through the trees and it always helps me talk it out to see areas of my growth in hospitality as well.
Here’s to a fun, ambitious, and successful 2018!! You all are what make this church so amazing!!
May it be so,
Rev. Lou Ward
New Session Starts:
November 24, 2019
Sunday - 4:00 PM
Monday - 1:00 PM
Monthly Veteran & First Responders' Breakfast:
Saturday, Dec. 21st,
La Junta United Methodist Church
601 San Juan Ave
La Junta, CO 81050
Phone: (719) 384-7717
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