As long time Bethel members, we have seen the dramatic growth from a small congregation where we knew everyone to the large church we are today. With that growth, we recognize the challenges of remaining a connected church where people can feel welcome, form new friend-ships and find ministry areas where they can use their spiritual gifts. We are empty nesters and have two married children who no longer live in the area. As the kids were growing up it was easier to be connected with other families as we were heavily invested in the children and youth ministries. We treasured the generation ahead of us with their wisdom and love for Bethel as they mentored us as what it looks like to be involved in the church in that season of life. Now, many of these dear people are gone or no longer involved due to health and we are finding our-selves moving into that “front row” position. After considering what we wanted that role to look like for us, we have been trying to be more intentional about connecting with others, both with newcomers and attendees we’ve not yet met.
We have found some simple things we can do such as looking for a new attendee on Sunday morning in the foyer and greeting and visiting with them to make them feel welcome. As appropriate, occasionally we will invite someone out to lunch with us after church to get to know them better. We intentionally attend the regular service rather than Traditions since we have found we have more opportunities with our connections in the business and medical community to recognize new visitors and be able to welcome them that day. Sometimes it means skipping our ABF class and spending that time in the Solid Grounds meeting and enjoying fellowship over coffee with people we haven’t met before. Since we’ve been here so long, we are often asked about ministry opportunities Bethel offers and we can share what we know about that opportunity and try to link them with that ministry leader. It would be easier and more comfortable for us to seek out our friends but we are trying to move outside our comfort zone and become welcoming and approachable to the newcomer and to those we don’t know. We don’t do this all the time and we miss many opportunities, but we feel that God is calling us to be intentional about our connectedness with the Bethel body of Christ.