As a pastor, I focus a consistent amount of my time toward connecting the unconnected, and then deepening the connected, within the church body. I want to focus on the first piece of this today (connecting the unconnected), and specifically I have in mind people who are new to the Christian faith or new to a church body.
When it comes to new people and church life, most pastors just hope the new attenders show up again the next Sunday. “See you next Sunday!” as the people walk away. Maybe they send a letter or an email thanking them for coming, but the effort to extend a hand often does not move beyond this, at least initially.
I tend to focus my efforts in two specific directions when meeting new people. I’ve found these two principles to be authentic, allowing me to just be me, rather than Mr. Pastor Answer Man. I’ve also found them to be helpful, giving space for the individual to take positive steps in their faith without intense coercion.
Know Their Story
In our narrative-focused culture, this might be a bit cliche now, but I cannot pastor someone I don’t know. And I can’t have the trust needed to influence anyone without knowing their story.
New people come to church all the time, and rather than saying, “We have this group you could join,” I usually just ask them to give me a chance to get to know them over coffee or dessert or dinner. I want to get them away from the church building so that they can see the value of being church beyond a building.
Lastly, knowing the people who make up the church helps me do my job well. Today, people can take in incredible content and replace church with content. But if I know the unique situations facing the church, I can better speak toward Godly living than any podcast preacher.
Introduce Them to Older, Wiser Men and Women
I do this for two particular reasons:
1. I simply cannot care for everyone in my church body well. It is impossible.
2. I’ve yet to meet someone my age who doesn’t desire interaction with older, mature Christians. While at the same time, I meet so few who are doing anything intentional for that kind of interaction to take place.
Two of the groups I help oversee work in this component of integrating older and younger together. Again, the idea is that most people will not seek out relationship with those significantly younger or older than they are, but deep down everyone needs this interaction.
If the church should reflect the whole body of Christ as a family, then we should be allowing for all ages to engage with one another. People will be naturally drawn toward those around their age, so why not push them toward those unlike them as well?
What are your underlying principles for engaging new people at your church?