What is your only comfort?

Urban God-talk for the church-o-phobic.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Collecting Congregants - well, not quite...

Now that I'm no longer obsessively collecting baseball cards or madly scrambling to finish term papers, I've decided I need a new special something on which to focus my OCD-like attention upon. After some prayer and another glass of Diet Pepsi, I determined that perhaps it's time to double up my evangelism efforts.

After two years of hard work, the Greenpoint congregation is at a really good place. Our building is pretty clean, our people are open and friendly, our worship is lively. It's the kind of church that I'd be proud to invite my friends to visit. It's the kind of church that I would choose to attend. We're really ready to get down to the hard business of spreading the message of Christ's radical hospitality and amazing grace. Not to mention, we now have a member who is a graphic designer - so we're actually equipped to get the message out!

Last week, the aforementioned graphic designing disciple and I created a little flier to hand out to folks around the neighborhood. Friday morning I woke up with an incredible amount of energy and put our plan into action standing on the corner of Greenpoint Ave. just outside the entrance to the subway station. I must have handed out over 125 little fliers over the course of the morning rush hour and got to meet some pretty interesting neighbors. Overall, it was a great experience, and I plan to repeat it each day for the foreseeable future.

The competitive collector inside of me, though, wondered if anyone would show up at church as a result of those little fliers. This being the first Sunday of the experiment, I was intrigued to see the possible grand results. I had hoped for perhaps a 1% response rate, so maybe one or two people might show up.

As of today, the new congregation tally stands at zero. Not one new person. But, I'm not going to be dissuaded (at least not for the time being). There's always next week Sunday, and in the meantime, I now know far more neighbors than I did last week at this time. So there are lots of benefits, along with the potential for getting a tan.


At 11:58 PM, Blogger greg said...

Ann, don't be discouraged. In fact, if you hand out fliers every Sunday for the next 10 years and never get a single new congregant, don't be discouraged.

I left the churh (RC) when I was 14, and didn't return (to the ELCA) until I was 44. The first positive impression of Christianity that I got after leaving the church was when I was in my late twenties and going to graduate school (studying Physics) in Berkeley. I lived in north Oakland: there was a crack house across the street and two houses down, and my downstairs neighbor was held up at gunpoint on the street corner nearest our house a week after I moved in - it was not the best neighborhood. On that same street corner there was a donut shop, and every Sunday morning my wife and I would stroll down there for our weekly treat of donuts. And every Sunday morning standing in front of the donut shop were Jehovah's Witnesses. They were well-dressed. They were open and welcoming. They were polite. In a neighborhood that was under an incredible amount of strain, they shown forth like the light described in the Gospels. After declining respectfully a few times to talk with them about religion, they were content to simply greet us every Sunday, and every Sunday my respect for them grew a little bit. I didn't think much of their theology then, and I don't think much of it now. But clearly, it was working for them, and I felt (and feel) enormous respect for that. Their presence there on that street corner was the first of many little nudges that have been pushing me back toward God ever since.

So don't be discouraged. The work may be hard, the fruit may take decades to ripen, and the fruit may ripen in somebody else's orchard, but you can be certain that your labor is not in vain. God bless you.

At 9:13 PM, Blogger Purechristianithink said...

Yes--we had a similar experience with those little doornob hanger thingies inviting the neighborhood to Advent/Christmas stuff. Particularly frustrating since I had to do a great deal of tail-twisting to get my folks out there going door to door. Ah well. Maybe it's a cumulative type thing . . .

At 9:18 PM, Blogger Ann said...

I'm a firm believer in the law of large numbers - the more people you invite to church (by any and all means necessary), the greater the potential to have someone show up. There have got to be at least 100,000 people in the neighborhood - we need less than 0.1% to have the sanctuary full.

At 11:59 AM, Blogger Friday Mom said...

Great approach, and as you say, it's a great way to get to know the neighbors too. I'm reminded of the parable of the wedding feast when I hear about churches doing this sort of activity. You keep going out into the highways and byways until you find the ones with whom the gospel resonates. It's hard work, but can you imagine doing anything else?

At 11:25 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops...meant to leave this here not in the previous one.

OCD - try diet coke ;)


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