Rachel Lonberg 2016 Stoll SmallDear Ones,

At a recent membership committee retreat, we talked about how being a warm, hospitable community that welcomes everyone is not a job that one committee can do – it is the task of all of us. To that end, I’m sharing a challenge, encouragements, and a caution with you all this month.

Challenge: Every Sunday you come to church, speak to someone you don’t know.

It doesn’t have to be a long conversation. It doesn’t even have to be with a visitor. There’s about 250 members of People’s Church—surely there are some among us that you don’t know.

I know that talking to strangers doesn’t come easy for all of us. (I’m an introvert. I get it.) Still, I encourage you to try this, perhaps discovering some new friends.

Though People’s Church is a familiar place for many of us, visiting for the first time is hard. You don’t know if the nice words on the website truly reflect us. You don’t know your way around yet—where the bathrooms are or where The Commons is or that the room the service is in is called The Commons. You don’t know if anyone will talk to you at coffee hour. It’s a risk to visit—and it amazes me that visitors take that risk week after week after week.

We can’t make visiting a totally comfortable experience, but we can make it easier. We can bear some of the discomfort by making conversation.

If you’re someone who’s now going to take on this challenge, let me offer you a few questions to help get conversation flowing. I don’t want us to be automatons approaching people and asking all the same questions, but for me, having a few questions in mind helps me overcome the anxiety of starting a conversation with someone I don’t know well. Here are a few ideas: “What did you think of the service today?” “I don’t think we’ve met. My name is….” “How is your weekend so far?” “What keeps you busy during the week?” “How long have you been coming here?” If someone is wearing a distinctive piece of clothing or jewelry, complement it and ask about it. Feel free to use other questions.

The one question that I encourage you to avoid is, “Is this your first Sunday here?” Just because we don’t recognize someone doesn’t mean that they’re brand new. It can be demoralizing for someone who’s been here a few months or a few years to be asked if they are brand new. It can make them feel unseen—and that’s not what we want.

So let’s talk to visitors and fellow members and get to know one another.

See you in church,

Rachel

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