September 2007
Christian Hospitality

A Sunday Morning Welcome

Let’s really welcome our new members! One step which is often overlooked in our various incorporation processes is that of having a meaningful welcoming ceremony for our new members. Here at Iona-Hope we have attempted to remedy that by having a very brief liturgy, offered at all three services, on a monthly basis.

A sponsor is appointed and introduces each of the new members to the congregation and presents them to the pastor. We have now accomplished one of the goals: the new folks have been brought forward and have been introduced to the congregation. All those present have had the opportunity to put a face with a name. I them ask them to join me in the liturgy, which is relatively brief but contains some very important elements.

The new members affirm that they understand the core values of the congregation and will support them. They also pledge that they will “support the goals of the congregation.” Also, please note the parallel to the baptismal service near the end of the welcoming service. The entire congregation is invited to support these new members in their ministry.

Once the brief ceremony has been completed, we give each new member a gift bag. This is fun; everyone enjoys a bag full of goodies! The specific contents of the bag change from time to time but the following items are usually included:

  • A mug with the church logo. We tease and say that this is Noritake or some other special make of china. 
  • A complete list of small group ministries offered by the congregation. 
  • A small pocket cross. Again we tease and say that this is made of fine silver and purchased from Tiffany’s. 
  • A framed photograph of the church. We say that this is especially appropriate for the coffee table when you are having company. When someone comments on what a nice church that is, you quickly offer to bring them with you next weekend.

We have fun with this description of the goodies and also use it as an educational piece for everyone. In addition to all of this, we usually photograph everyone involved and publish the pictures (in color) in the next issue of our newsletter — another way to help people make connections within the congregation.

Although the entire cycle of the welcoming ministry is important, the actual ceremony seems to be a part that many congregations overlook. I heartily recommend this practice.

John Adler has been a priest for nearly twenty years following a legal career in Chicago. He is currently the Senior Pastor at Iona-Hope Episcopal Church in Fort Myers, Florida. This is the second congregation Adler has planted. The first was St. Monica’s in Naples, now a parish. Adler has a D. Min. degree in Congregational Development from Seabury-Western and consults in the areas of church planting, church growth and congregational development.

This article is part of the September 2007 Vestry Papers issue on Christian Hospitality