Awesomely detailed report out of Chicago on the potential of a new members gathering/class (h/t Gotta Sing Gotta Pray: Intentional Hospitality: Old Saint Pat’s: Wow).
Most parishes don’t have “new members” classes or gatherings, period. The best a “new member” (note: not a canonical term, but it’s American vernacular…so I’m running with it) could expect from a parish is to for the staff who help them to register to not be blatantly rude, or for the parish to have an easy online registration form.
Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters do utilize new member classes with some regularity–so maybe we should consider why it’s a good practice in all Christian communities (even Catholic parishes!)…
- We live in a post-Christian/post-church age — we shouldn’t take it for granted that everyone who sets foot in the sanctuary has any idea how to live out their calling as a Christian in parish community
- Americans move a lot. The Body of Christ isn’t just mystical. Someone coming to your parish might want to actually meet other believers.
- So many Gospel narratives (lost coin, lost sheep, prodigal son, etc.) demonstrate the joy of God’s beloved returning home. This isn’t to say every new person at the parish has been “lost” for some time–but you never know. And there’s no sin in being too joyful and loving towards the “stranger.”
- Opportunity to build trust. To converse and learn stories. A person who visits your parish and wants to join might be far from God. Simple and authentic acts of hospitality build trust. This is pre-evangelization–helping people experience the personal love of God through our actions.
As Dr. Jerry Galipeau explains,
That intentional hospitality is just that: intentional…[it] takes work but, more than that, it takes hearts and minds convinced that reaching out and throwing a banquet of welcome is worth every penny, every minute of time, and every ounce of energy.
Wonderfully challenging words!
Does your parish also have a great new members class/gathering/program? Please share!
p.s. Here’s another good example out of Nativity Church in Maryland.