During the first few weeks in December, I want you to pay close attention to the commercials you watch on TV.
Our denomination, the United Church of Christ, will be running ads on national television beginning in December. The spots run for only 30 seconds, but in those few moments people all across the United States will get a powerful message: Jesus didn't turn anybody away. Neither do we.
In test markets where the ads have already run, UCC churches were visited by people hungry for Christian community but never dreamed there was a church that would accept them.
Now it's our turn. When the ads begin running December 1 there will be a website listed telling people where they can go to find more information. At that website they will be able to locate a UCC church in their area. Some of them will find that Elgin First Congregational UCC is close by, and they will give us a visit.
They may look and sound like the rest of us, or they may look and sound rather different. The question is, will we make them feel welcome? Will their reception make them want to come back?
Of course, we have programs in place to do just that. Our greeters at the sanctuary door always offer a smile and a helping hand, if needed, to first-time visitors. Our First Faces teams make brief visits to the
homes of first-timers to give them some information and ask them to come again. And, of course, there is the spirit of our church. Visitors often tell me how friendly they find our congregation.
So I'm not really worried about FCC folks making our newcomers feel welcome. But here are a few things you can be intentional about:
Sign the Welcome Book in your pew every Sunday and fill out all of the information called for. If you don't sign the book, chances are a newcomer will follow your lead and won't sign it either. Plus, if you don't write your address the newcomer probably won't do it, and then our First Faces teams won't have any way to follow up with a visit.
Volunteer to be a First Face. It's a five minute visit on Sunday afternoon to someone who is really glad you took the time to stop by. See Ann Schneck, or me, if you want to be on a team.
Invite newcomers to coffee hour after worship, and when you see new faces in the fellowship hall be sure and sit with them. Yes, we all have friends we want to see after church, but this is a way to enlarge that circle.
This whole effort in the UCC is called the "God is still speaking" initiative, based on a line from Gracie Allen: "Never put a period where God has placed a comma." I never dreamed God might be speaking through a television ad, but starting December 1 God might do just that.