January 6, 2011

Who’s New and Who’s Missing

This article is also available in Spanish aquí.

Each Monday for a half-hour four of us gather and go through an exercise called “Who’s New and Who’s Missing.” It is a quick check-in the day following worship services to keep us mindful of those who I believe should be our primary concern.

It started when I realized that many Sunday mornings as rector I was swamped with connections, requests, conversations, appeals, etc. from a small range of people in the parish. These included strong leaders who needed “just a minute” to have me weigh in on a problem or project. Another group were those folks who have perpetual life issues that simply want me to be aware of what’s going on with them. These came along with the usual “the light is out in the men’s room” type distractions. All of these, as important as they may be, pulled me away from the primary mindfulness I wanted to maintain – connecting with newcomers and noting those members who weren’t with us on that morning.

So I pulled together our youth pastor, ministry coordinator, and pastoral care person and asked each of us to have our eyes open every Sunday to connect with our first time visitors and to reflect on who we haven’t seen lately.

The meetings are lively and fun. We scoop one another with new info. We plan pastoral follow up. We set dates for the next newcomer brunch. We sometimes stumble across bigger community issues that might require a systemic approach. We stay connected with who’s new and who’s missing.

Those two groups – the ones coming through the door and those slipping out – should make up the bulk of our planned pastoral response. Those who are already and always on board, our steady members, are living out their ministries more than needing to be ministered to. Equipping them is an important ongoing task, but if that becomes our only focus, we lose touch with the growing (and declining) edges of our community.

Our system works for us, but every congregation would benefit from an intentional process of noting week in and week out who is new and who is missing.