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Why We Will Never Be a Welcoming Church Again

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.

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Rev. Dr. Robert Moss has been pastor at Lutheran Church of the Master (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) in Lakewood, CO since 1998 after serving congregations in Nebraska and Oklahoma. Born in Boston, Rob grew up in Ogden, Utah, and graduated from the University of Utah in Salt Lake City with a degree in Geography. He received a Master of Divinity from LutherNorthwestern Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota, and a Doctor of Ministry degree (Congregational Mission and Leadership) from Luther Seminary. Pastor Rob recently served as the ELCA’s Interim Director for Evangelical Mission and Team Leader for Expanding Vison in the Rocky Mountain Synod, ELCA. He is married to Lois and they have three grown children: Greg, Emily, and Phil. Pastor Rob is passionate about helping LCM and the broader church fulfill its purpose as part of God’s mission of care and redemption of the world.