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Help Wanted!
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By Nancy Canwell

           Morguefile
"Jesus called out to them, 'Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people' " (Matthew 4:19, NLT).

Rather than waiting to approach someone after they've quit coming to church, what might happen if we started connecting with them the moment we see signs of distress? What if we as pastors and members were aware and engaged with them when it appears that they are in the process of leaving?

In his book, An Indescribable Welcome Home, Paul Richardson tells the story of a pastor who did just this.

The pastor had been looking for a way to meet the needs of the community surrounding his church. After doing some careful research, the members discovered that one of the greatest needs was space for community gardens. This was perfect! The church actually had extra land after its building project was completed.

Members spread the word that the land needed to be prepared before it could be offered to the community. Volunteers were needed to bring tractors and tillers, shovels and stakes, soil amendments and seeds, and to do watering and weeding.

To the pastor's delight, some of the first people to show up and help were the men in his church who did not attend on a regular basis. They were more than willing to bring equipment and provide hours of time and manpower. They may not have responded to an invitation to a church service, but they were happy to volunteer their machines and their know-how. Working together on this project for their community brought many of these men back to church on a regular basis.

We all need to be needed. And if someone is on his or her way out of the church because they feel unneeded and unimportant, what better way to keep them than by getting them involved?

When Jesus was here on earth, His disciples were very active participants in His ministry. They weren't merely spectators, but ministered alongside Jesus. He taught them by His example, and then gave them a work to do. In fact, He trained them so well that they took over His ministry after He ascended to heaven.

When Jesus called the 12 to join Him, He said, " 'Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people.' " He let them know that they would active in service. Perhaps we need to say something similar to those in the process of leaving the church: "Come join us. We need your talents," or "Come join us. We could use someone with your education," or "Come join us. We need someone with your unique experience." If we put out a "Help Wanted" sign by personal invitation, we'd see fewer people leaving the church. This is at the heart of Reconnecting Ministries.

Prayer Focus: That God would prompt us to pay attention to who might be missing at church, and to seek them out. And even more importantly, to engage with them when it appears that they may be in the process of leaving.

Recommended Resource: An Indescribable Welcome Home, by Paul Richardson. Order the Bible Study Guide and Leader's Guide from AdventSource.