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Preparing and Implementing Your Welcome Home Sabbath
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Welcome Home Sabbath
November 21, 2015
 
Some ideas from our Reconnecting Ministries Team

BEFORE NOVEMBER 21:
  1. Pray over and create a Reconnecting Ministry Team that will be trained for this special Sabbath, and for the coming year. Have your team read the book, An Indescribable Welcome Home, and use the study guide. Order the Leader’s Guide and Bible Study Guide from AdventSource: adventsource.org
  2. Begin the process of identifying inactive/missing members beginning with the most recently absent. 
  3. Focus on the most recent missing and send the team out with gifts from the church, with the goal of reconnecting.
  4. A personal invitation and a personal touch is very important. People who personally invite missing members to church, and then home for dinner or to a potluck, will get better results than just sending a letter.
  5. Missing members often slip away unnoticed. It can happen over “messy’ situations (like divorce, job loss, questions about church standards, etc.). It's vital for members to approach the missing with compassion and interest. Encourage members to put away judgmental attitudes or concerns about issues of why inactives left, and focus on a relational interest in them.
  6. Some possible things to say when you visit a non-attending member: “We know you have reasons for not attending church anymore, but we miss you!" ~ "If you’re willing to take a chance and visit, we’ll be on our best behavior and make sure there's a potluck!” ~ “We won't ask you, ‘Where have you been?’ We won’t bug you to come back. We will be delighted to listen to whatever it is that is making you happy these days, or whatever might be troubling you.” ~ “The church is not perfect and there are times when we fail in maintaining our fellowship. Please allow us a ‘do-over.’ ” ~ “Help us start over and rebuild our relationships.” ~ “I know that I haven’t been very good at staying in touch and that’s ‘my bad!’ But we love you, miss you, and would love to just sit and chat.” ~ “I'd really enjoy being friends again.” ~ “If the idea of coming back to church gives you the hives, we understand that, too! So, just call me and set up a time to sit and chat at your favorite coffee shop. I'll pay for coffee, tea, or hot chocolate . . . your choice!” ~ "I'm not here to ask you to come back to church, I just came to re-establish our friendship again."
  7. It’s critical to help educate members to recognize that they need to go out of their way to be friendly to those outside their circle of friends and acquaintances.
  8. Churches who have the budget or skill sets can place an ad in the paper identifying the church’s efforts to repair and heal fractures or wounds of isolation that occur in families and churches.
  9. Have a church “work bee” day to get your church ready for company! Work both inside and outside the church so that it looks welcoming and appealing.

ON NOVEMBER 21:
  1. Have greeters in the parking lot and at the front door. Their job is not to ask probing questions, but to give a warm welcome. Nothing else.
  2. Have members in the foyer to direct guests to children’s classes, the sanctuary, restrooms, etc.
  3. Don’t ask visitors to sign a guestbook. Instead, have members look around and notice who came. Compare notes during a meeting the following week.
  4. Choose hymns and praise songs familiar to those who might not have attended for years.
  5. Carefully choose who will give the welcome, special music, and prayer.
  6. Don’t ask guests why they stopped attending.
  7. Don’t assume guests are “dropouts.” They may consider themselves good Adventists who don’t attend church.
  8. Don’t use the term “backslider.” It’s disrespectful and judgmental.
  9. At the potluck, don’t sit with people you know well and who come regularly. Sit with people you don't know.
  10. Introduce yourself with your first name and have a simple get-acquainted conversation.
  11. Prep your members so that they don’t make a big public show of how they missed the inactive members.
  12. Train members to use the event to personally meet these folks and start a relationship so they get together outside the church. 
  13. Make sure somebody is keeping an eye on “Aunt Mabel” who might be tempted to talk to guests about their jewelry, clothing styles, or hair!

AFTER NOVEMBER 21:
  1. Have your Reconnecting Ministry Team meet on a regular basis. Pray for and discuss the needs of non-attending members. Work with your pastor and social committee to plan events that you can personally invite them to.
  2. Establish a relationship with them. Many will have difficult and pain-filled stories to share. A friend can say things a stranger could not say, or know how to say.
  3. The church needs to be properly prepared so that Welcome Home Sabbath is not an annual event on the calendar, but a daily process that empowers the spiritual members to “restore.”
  4. To be effective, a church cannot determine a single day to “reconnect.” Restoration, reclamation, and reconnecting is not an event, but a process.
  5. The Welcome Home Sabbath should launch the initiative! It should educate and prepare the church! It should begin the process of changing the atmosphere by making it loving and gracious.
  6. Members should be taught fervent praying so that the “elder brother” spirit is broken.
  7. What’s more important than the day is what is done before and after to assure that inactives will return.
  8. It would be good if the church would plan events off-site for social activities that promote reconnecting relationships.
  9. Maybe there should be a discussion guide handout for that situation which begins with: “X% of the members of our congregation have not attended for more than a year. We invited them today and no one came. We need to have a serious, honest discussion: Why are we such an unattractive witness for Jesus?”
  10. Like the Good Shephard in Luke 15, go searching for missing members.