By Charlene Bailey, special contributor
More than 100 people attended the Five Rivers District’s annual event, the Fab Five Fall Festival and Fellowship event. The festival was Oct. 6 at Worden United Methodist Church.
As District Superintendent Dennis Ackerman welcomed attendees, he reminded them the topic of the day was evangelism, which is not a dirty word. All congregations need to share their faith with others. Otherwise, borrowing a line from Bishop Scott Jones, Ackerman said, “if we ever return to the 1950s, many of our churches are ready.”
At the festival, church members share, through presentations and displays, ministries happening at their local churches.
Debi Nixon, co-author of “CATCH: A Church-wide Program for Invitational Evangelism,” was the featured speaker for the event. She is the managing executive director of Regional Campuses and Catalyst Ministry at United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. The CATCH program was developed by Church of the Resurrection.
The objectives of the CATCH program are:
Debi Nixon talks about attracting and connecting visitors to local churches. (photo by Charlene Bailey)
She explained that there are two types of churches: inwardly focused and outwardly focused.
Those that are inwardly focused exhibit behaviors where internal relationships among church members can actually build barriers with those on the outside—visitors—who are trying to connect with the church.
Churches that are outwardly focused have walls that are penetrable; they value all people, inside and outside the church. Their leaders are willing to change things in order to reach new people, and everything they do is designed to make a new person feel comfortable.
These churches don’t do the typical “announcements” and “joys and concerns” during the worship service because these can put visitors at a disadvantage since they may not understand the inner workings of the church or know the people who are named. This can make the guest feel like an outsider.
Nixon said congregations should seek clarity on three important questions:
All of these questions should be answered by every church in order to identify their clarity of purpose. She encouraged attendees to spend time with their leadership answering these questions and celebrating what is remarkable about their church.
Nixon shared numerous ways churches can interact with visitors, such as brief, doorstep visits to first-time visitors (done the day of the first visit to better ensure a return visit) and giving coffee mugs with the church logo to visitors.
She suggested using a direct-mail service, such as Every Door Direct, to send demographically targeted mail pieces. United Methodist Communications, www.umcom.org, offers a wide variety of resources that may be used in developing direct-mail pieces.
Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, and local church websites can be effective ways to connect and interact with church members as well as the community.
Nixon closed with a challenge to congregations to reflect on what they think visitors expect from the church and contrast that with what visitors are actually experiencing. She said churches need to develop action steps as they commit to being a church that is reaching out to attract and connect with the unchurched in their community.
Ministry presentations for the Fab Five event were intentionally chosen as a means of encouraging churches to look beyond themselves toward creative possibilities for ministry in local communities.
Several ministries were highlighted:
The Huddle is a men’s ministry of Lawrence First UMC. (photo by Charlene Bailey)
|The Fearless Followers of Christ is the new, combined youth group of Blue Mound and Mound City UMCs. (photo by Charlene Bailey)|
|Lyndon UMC pastor, Rev. Loren Drummond, right, and Mary Brooks share information about Celebrate Recovery. (photo by Charlene Bailey)|Louisburg UMC rebranded their Sunday school as Time for God. (photo by Charlene Bailey)
Imagine No Malaria field coordinator Ashley Gish, right, visits with a Fab Five attendee about the United Methodist campaign to end malaria deaths in Africa. (photo by Charlene Bailey)