By the Advocate
What actually happens when church members get out and knock on doors in their communities?
Three Mississippi Conference churches recently found out.
Earlier this year, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward and the cabinet encouraged local congregations to knock on doors in their communities in response to the annual conference’s theme regarding doors as a means of “radical hospitality” as the denomination seeks to re-think church.
The idea of knocking on nine doors for each of our conference’s 1,137 churches was first uplifted by the Rev. Rick Wells of the New Albany District who challenged each church in the Mississippi Conference to knock on at least nine doors of homes of non-members as a means of helping fulfill the mission of “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Two of the churches are new to their locations and used the idea of knocking on nine to introduce themselves to the neighborhoods.
Anderson South pastor the Rev. Tim Howard and the launch team members knocked on more than 629 doors in August. The month was designated as a ‘kick-off” for Anderson South, a new congregation. The kick off included a free community picnic, health fair, school supply giveaways and worship services. More than 500 persons attended the picnic and health fair. The worship services attracted at least 225 persons. Special guests who participated in the worship services included Ward, the Rev. Joe May (pastor of Anderson UMC), the Revs. Rudy and Juanita Rasmus of Houston, Texas, Mississippi Supreme Court Chief justice William C. Waller, the Rev. Embra Jackson (administrative assistant to the bishop), the Rev. Maxine Bolden and the Anderson Church Choir.
Biloxi First United Methodist Church, which has relocated north of I-10 following Hurricane Katrina, followed a similar format. First, it sent van loads of students and chaperones into its new backyard and “knocked” on almost 1,000 doors over two weekends. The students hung colorful door hangers inviting the surrounding neighbors to the first Back 2 Skool Bash.
An estimated 175 people enjoyed the free, family event that took place the weekend after school began and was held on the church grounds. Church members knew few of the people who attended, but the following week several new families made a first time visit to the 10:30 a.m. blended worship service.
The smell of cotton candy, popcorn and hot dogs on the grill filled the air at the bash. Children ran to and fro enjoying face painting, water slides and Wally the Wizard’s balloon creations while the disc jockey played familiar summer tunes.
A table of school supplies was piled high for students to take what they needed.
“All this for free?” was the question repeated over and over to Penny Groves, popcorn stand attendant. “So many people were surprised that they didn’t have to pay. They kept asking me, ‘How much for a bag of popcorn? Can adults have popcorn, too?’” she said.
The Back 2 Skool Bash was the first of several free community events planned over the next year. Biloxi First plans to continue knocking on doors, weaving its way into the fabric of the North Woolmarket community it now calls home.
Although a rain storm invaded the event, church members who helped clean up weren’t discouraged. “Believe it or not, all smiles. It was as if the rain chemically bonded all of us as we remembered our baptism. I will never forget what an incredible time I had that day,” said the Rev. Eddie Kirby, Biloxi First UMC pastor.
Meanwhile at Kosciusko First UMC, 13 groups in the congregation (Sunday school classes, Bible study groups, choir, etc.) went about knocking on nine doors.
“Actually, they (threw) in an extra door per group just for good measure,” says Dr. Donald Patterson, pastor of Kosciusko First, “…but Knock On Nine sounds better than Tap on Ten.”
Packets were prepared to give to residents of the homes visited. Patterson said the packets are “kind of like a church version of a chamber of commerce welcome packet for new residents.”
The packets included the book The United Methodist Church – Together We Can; brochures introducing Kosciusko First UMC, its history, worship and program opportunities, Sunday school classes and mission initiatives; a letter from the pastor; a UMC refrigerator magnet and four coupons for free meals at their Wednesday evening “First Family Fellowship” supper.
Members from the church helped the membership secretary compile a list of homes to visit which included non-members, non-churchgoers and aimed to meet the conference focus of reaching “more people, more young people, more diverse people.”
“The initiative is not a recruitment venture; it is an extension of hospitality — not intrusive, theological or doctrinal. We will introduce ourselves and let them know that we’re here if they ever need us,” says Patterson. “If one person from each ‘knocked-on-door’ shares news of the visit with their average cohort (six other persons), we will have extended the hand of hospitality to 780 persons. That amounts to a little over 10 percent of Kosy’s population. Light a candle for us.”
For more information on Kosciusko First’s Knock On Nine initiative contact Patterson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us Know
Share how your church is accepting the challenge to Knock on Nine. Send your information to the conference office at email@example.com. We will share your information with churches across the conference. And, don’t forget to report back on the number of doors you’ve opened. For information, contact conference Communications Director Lisa Cumbest Michiels at 601-354-0515 ext. 17.
Small churches combine to Knock on 9
Rev. Wesley Pepper pastors three small membership churches, Hunter’s Chapel, Truslow and See’s Chapel UMC’s , located in the rural areas of the Senatobia District. With a heart and a desire not to remain small the churches members have committed to knocking on doors of their neighborhoods and are delivering bags of homemade cookies with this simple message…”we love you and Jesus loves you.” As of the time of this report See’s’ Chapel, the smallest and most rural congregation has visited 20 families; Truslow has reached about 50 families. Hunter’s Chapel had already been visiting the community giving away sweet corn and inviting people to church and is now beginning to carry cookies. “Due to reaching out into the community, Hunter’s Chapel has received six new members with other new attendees that have not yet joined,” says Pepper. “The churc hes are excited about this new outreach and the fact Annual Conference is promoting this tool for making disciples.”
For more information on the “cookie visitation” contact Rev. Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let us know how your church is accepting the challenge to Knock on Nine. Send your information to the conference office at email@example.com. We will share your information with churches across the conference. And, don’t forget to report back on the number of doors you’ve opened. Watch the conference web site for the tally – www.mississippi-umc.org.