Tips help make Open House Month a hit
We often hear “God is in the details,” but, you know, “Jesus is in the welcoming.”
September, declared by bishops as United Methodist Open House Month, is an opportunity to emulate Jesus’ truly welcoming spirit. To do so, each church member must intentionally recognize Christ in everyone — and remember that guests may well be looking for Christ in us. United Methodist Open House Month reinforces the promise of open hearts, open minds and open doors made by the national television spots airing each September.
These television invitations call on us to create a welcoming lifestyle in our churches — not hit-or-miss or come-and-go. A welcoming lifestyle is what we do, what we value and how we act all the time.
The following are events and tips, some from United Methodist churches, that can help your congregation make welcoming a lifestyle to be shared:
- Community worship services — Plan worship services during the month to reach out to others in the community. Services might be structured around the families and friends of HIV/AIDS patients, children’s Sabbath, camp Sunday and Heritage Day. Send out fliers, invitations and a pastoral letter to the community and advertise the events on the church sign.
- Serve the community servants — Invite the community to an after-church luncheon to honor people that impact the community positively. A meal afterward could recognize the contributions of police officers and firefighters and others.
- A “chili” reception — Invite the whole town and anyone else interested in food and fellowship to an “Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors” chili supper (or get in a stew and make it a stew-and-cornbread meal) to let people know your church welcomes all.
- Comfort station — Seat families with children near the front, so the children can see what’s going on. Replace a few back rows of pews with rocking chairs for parents with children or older people who cannot sit in pews.
- A “new bread” ministry — Follow up on first-time guests with gifts of fresh-baked bread. Place each loaf in a decorative bag with the tag: “Bread is known as a symbol of life. The _____Church family gives this loaf as a gesture of hospitality, along with an invitation to share in the life of our congregation as we serve our Lord, The Bread of Life.” Include an information brochure. Deliver the bread and offer assistance, answer questions and invite the guests back.
- Front-porch hospitality — Build an inside “front porch” to use as your welcome area. Add rocking chairs and a sign that says the “Way Inn” and offer refreshments while welcoming guests.
- Eight out for four (small-group activity) — Have the church welcoming team organize nights out for groups of eight people, at least two of whom are newcomers. Designate individuals or couples as hosts to choose the first activity (dinner, sporting event, concert, etc.), to invite people to sign up and to ensure that each group includes new members or guests. Each group plans to go out together four times, with hosting duties and choice of activities rotating among the group members.
- Soul Café — Who says there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Invite guests to a free luncheon after a Sunday morning worship service.
Open House products are available from the Igniting Ministry Web site or by calling the Igniting Ministry product store toll-free at 877-281-6535. Products include special Open House Month postcards and Igniting Ministry note cards to issue personal invitations, customizable door hangers to convey your congregation’s welcoming spirit, welcome mats to greet newcomers at their first point of entry, indoor banners to help tell your story, bulletin covers in a variety of designs and sizes, coffee mugs to wrap your thoughts for the day, pencils for pew racks and as giveaways, and an overview video.