As part of its Welcome Home initiative, WELS Congregational Services has released a series of videos to address some of the most common reasons Christians stop attending church and how to show love and minister to these members. Nate Bourman, pastor at Mount Lebanon, Milwaukee, Wis., was featured in the videos discussing how to be a welcoming congregation.
Forward in Christ: What is your definition of a welcoming church?
Bourman: A church where no one stands or sits alone; everyone feels comfortable and safe. A place where everyone knows what is going on and feels that they can navigate the facilities or get information about our congregation. A place where parents, adults, and children feel safe to hear God’s Word and can easily participate and are welcome to participate.
FIC: What are some common reasons you’ve heard from members who felt unwelcome at church?
B: I think the primary reason people don’t feel welcome is that no one talks to them. People will walk into a church and no one greets them; they don’t know what’s going on and are left to feel like they didn’t belong there or are clearly the outsider. Members are often so busy in their “holy huddles” that the guest, visitor, and sometimes even other members are left on the outside looking in. It’s possible to be a stranger in your own house.
FIC: How can members participate in being a welcoming church?
B: Care and concern for the members of the church is not just the pastor’s job. It is not just the elders’ job. It is the job of each and every member. Love calls us to participate. None of us sits on the sidelines when it comes to welcoming God’s people home. . . . All are coming to church with sin and weakness and brokenness and frustration. Be part of the throng rejoicing to gather for worship with each other.
FIC: How can congregations maintain the “welcome home” practices and culture beyond the synodwide Welcome Home Sunday?
B: 1) Make it a yearly effort at your church. At Mount Lebanon we are going to go “small” this year and make this a regular part of our congregational outreach each year. 2) Consistent follow-up and outreach to inactive members is vital for their souls. We are working with our elders and a shepherding team to keep reaching out to our members. 3) Regularly talking about hospitality in sermons, Bible studies, and newsletters. We like to think we’re friendly, but if we asked a stranger to honestly evaluate us, what would they say?
FIC: What do you hope viewers take away from the videos?
B: Love your fellow members. Deeply. Bend over backwards. Be nice. Do whatever you can to give the gospel the opportunity to be heard. Get into their shoes and try to understand how they feel. Sympathize with their needs, their hurts, and their struggle. Love them!
All congregations are encouraged to participate in Welcome Home Sunday, either Oct. 20 or 27. The mission is to “pack the church” with every member. The four videos and accompanying Bible studies are available at welscongregationalservices.net.
Volume 106, Number 9
Issue: September 2019