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TogetherAgain Newsletter

Volume 5, Number 1; February 1998

Editor: Gary Russell
Managing Editor: Curtis Rittenour
Designer: Matthew McVane
Type Placement: Ginger Calkins
Content Consultant: Paul Richardson, Monte Sahlin, and Ralph Martin

Published by the Center for Creative Ministry for the Reclaiming Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. If you would like to ask questions, want to be on the mailing list, or would like to share your ideas, please contact us.

 

FEATURE article

Ten Things Your Church Can Do

Corporate Caring for People Who Have Withdrawn from Church Membership

1. PUT OUT A WELCOME SIGN. Express your concern and love by sending tokens of care. Write a letter, send an invitation to a church program, subscribe to a magazine for them. Sending these tells them you miss them and care for them.

2. PRACTICE SPEAKING KINDLY. When former members come to visit the church, don't speak critically of the present church family, the church leadership, or the church in general. Avoid all negative conversation. Help generate a positive atmosphere for good fellowship.

3. MAKE THE CHURCH INTO A FELLOWSHIP. The principles for building a church family are the same as those for holding a marriage and/or family together—speaking kindly, learning to say "I'm sorry," and self-sacrifice. The beauty of church fellowship is caring, the joy of church fellowship is sharing, and the strength of church fellowship is trusting.

4. HAVE A HOME COMING SABBATH. We all need a place to come home to. On this special Sabbath, make sure the greeters are well-trained; plan a special program; have a wonderful fellowship dinner; plan a BIG welcome for all who come.

5. EMPHASIZE DIVINE LOVE AND FORGIVENESS. Welcome those who return with open arms. Do NOT quiz them with a barrage of questions that would send them running away again. Remember, a hug or a warm handshake can mean more that spoken words.

6. BEGIN HOME FELLOWSHIPS/BIBLE STUDY GROUPS. Invite former/inactive members to member's homes for a meal and a time of fellowship and study. Many former members have been hurt, often deeply. Wounds take time to heal. It doesn't happen overnight. In small groups, like home fellowships, healing can take place.

7. INVITE THE COMMUNITY TO YOUR CHURCH. Send out personal invitations to the homes surrounding your church. This will sometimes awaken the interest of a former member and encourage them to visit and check out the church again.

8. ENCOURAGE ACTIVE MEMBERS TO GIVE THE NAME AND ADDRESS OF FORMER MEMBERS TO THE PASTOR OR RECLAIMING MINISTRY TEAM. Pastors and church leaders, trained in visitation, need to take these names seriously. After receiving the name of a former member, encourage immediate attention.

9. CREATE AND TRAIN SPECIAL VISITATION TEAMS. Visitation teams must be trained in listening skills. Listening is one of the hardest things for most of us to do. These team members must learn to let former members "air out" their hurts, complaints, and even anger, without being defensive or judgmental. Learning to listen with sympathetic ears and hearts, while remaining positive about the church and its message, will often allow deep wounds to begin healing.

10. FORM A PRAYER TEAM. Above and beyond everything that has been mentioned, there is a need for deep and meaningful prayer for this ministry. There is power in prayer. When prayer teams take their assignments seriously, many former church family members will return to Jesus and His family.

—by R. Ernest Castillo, Pacific Union Conference Executive Secretary and ASI Director
(Adapted from an article published in the Pacific Union Recorder, November 6, 1995)

 

HURTING parents

What We Like, What We Don't Like

Adventist young adults critique their church

Last year a group of Adventists (mostly young adults) met on CompuServe's On-line forum to critique their church. For the first half-hour they listed what they liked; for the second half-hour, what they didn't. In order of mention:

 

WHAT THEY LIKED
bullet The medical and educational organizations
bullet ADRA and other relief programs
bullet The zeal and energy of Adventist youth
bullet Good potlucks
bullet Being able to go anywhere and find other Adventists
bullet Friday night vespers
bullet Saturday night socials
bullet The diversity
bullet Vacation Bible School
bullet Pathfinders
bullet Our values
bullet Sabbath school discussions
bullet Global Village
bullet The unity
bullet The Student Missionary program
bullet Maranatha/Mission Impact Trips
bullet Adventists On-line
bullet Mission stories
bullet Inner-city programs like the van ministry in New York City
bullet Friends made in the church
bullet Our heritage – young visionaries starting the church
bullet Spiritual programs at our colleges
bullet Jose Rojas (NAD youth director)

 

WHAT THEY DISLIKED
bullet Politics
bullet Bad potlucks
bullet Disfellowshipping
bullet Debating proper dress in church
bullet The blue and pink sidewalks
bullet Mediocrity
bullet No "amens" during a sermon
bullet Being afraid to invite unchurched friends
bullet People who are judgmental
bullet Bickering – and the lost energy that comes with it
bullet Unconsecrated teachers
bullet Prejudice, racism, hate
bullet Segregated youth conferences
bullet Apathy
bullet Seeing exteriors, not interiors
bullet How people use Ellen White to condemn others
bullet Beast slides at evangelistic meetings
bullet Pulpits
bullet Stifled conversation
bullet Religious censorship
bullet Alarm systems in academy dorms
bullet Long, boring sermons
bullet Long prayers
bullet Pastors who think they're psychologists
bullet Altar calls based on guilt
bullet Emotional appeals to reject emotionalism
bullet Denial
bullet Hypocrisy
bullet Repeated pitches for money
bullet Cold water at Communion

 

(Reprinted from the Adventist Review, March 20, 1997)

 

QUICK take

A Little Church with a Big Heart

by Myrna Earles and Marjorie Snyder

"In the Ecorse (Michigan) Church, Alberta Drew has worked hard to communicate God's love in her church and out of it," reports Carolyn Palmer, Lake Region women's ministries coordinator. "Alberta keeps the women in her church busy with Project Reclaim through writing 'pop-up' letters."

Muriel Smith came to the Lake Region Campmeeting to explain the process of letter writing by the women of the Ecorse Church.

"Our church is targeting missing members, and we have had great success with our letter writing. We contacted 30 members by letter, asking them to 'pop into church.' We have had 19 of them come back, and most of them are now attending church again," Smith said. "Since we have been taking an interest in our missing members, we are known as the little church with the big heart."

 

EXTENDED family

TOGETHER AGAIN ROUNDTABLE

A Bible Study on Safety

Is your church safe? We're talking about the relational, spiritual and emotional safety there, not how the building's structure might be. Scripture has a lot of encouragement to offer for creating a place of safety at your church. What are those biblical stories and verses of promise? Be with Paul Richardson and Mike Aufderhar and their guests as they explore meaningful ways to be safe people with those who have quit coming to church. As usual, plenty of time will be available for your calls to 1.800.676.5446. Participate with us around a growing electronic round table to discuss this insightful topic on safety.

New time!
4-6 p.m. Eastern

Satellite Coordinates:
Galaxy 9, Channel 1

 

RESOURCE news

SafetyZone Kit

A Workshop for Friends Reaching Friends Who Quit Church

Most missing members are looking for a safe place to come back to church. This eight-part workshop helps churches and members build safe places through relational bridges. Materials in the kit include: Leader's Guide, Participant's Guide, Overhead Transparency Masters, Training Videos.

Learn more here


TogetherAgain Roundtable

TogetherAgain Video Seminar on Reclaiming Missing Members

Quarterly TogetherAgain broadcasts are mad eon reaching former members. These two-hour videos can be used in training events for your congregation or missing members ministry. Ask for the "TogetherAgain Uplink/Reclaiming Roundtable" video tape by event date.

Learn more here


Welcome Home Kit

Mailing materials and Guidebook for a Reclaiming Ministry

A 24-page Guide Book to help you set up a Reclaiming Ministry in your church. Also included is a Homecoming Kit of artwork on a CD-ROM disc to be customized for use on a reclaiming Sabbath of your choice (including letters, response cards, refrigerator notes, posters, bulletin inserts, etc.).

Learn more here 

FEED back

Dear TogetherAgain,

I have enjoyed reading your newsletter. However, the real purpose of the publication is not being met [in my church]. It seems unfair to continue receiving this great newsletter while not exercising its potential. All the copies I have received are in my file and [I] will contact you when our church decides to become active in this area.

Thank you and God bless your continued work in this much needed area.

—AP, British Columbia, via e-mail


Dear Friends,

I hope you will receive this letter in the spirit in which it is written. I, too, want to see everyone possible reclaimed from the land of the enemy. But, when they come back I want them to understand and love God's truth and His church.

I just read the latest newsletter and the article "I WAS GOOD." It seems to run the same direction too many are running in recent years in the Adventist Church. The young man starts out with a wrong view of what it means to be a true Seventh-day Adventist Christian and so he overthrows that because it was, and should be, unsatisfying. Then he is introduced to a false gospel, which Ellen White called "presumption," and falls for it. He then starts again attending the Adventist Church, only because "It's the closest to the truth." Did not anyone truly witness to him the "real gospel" and the "real truth" that God has a church and in the Bible it is called "the Remnant?"

I wish you would not encourage others to take the same route by publishing such poor examples of a journey away from God and an unsatisfactory "return." Please, give us stories of people who have returned to Jesus and His whole truth. Jesus said, "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

By the way, I feel sorry for the young man who said he could have "spent 40 years in the church and never met Him." I met Jesus as a young man, raised in another church, but also found him in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, God's remnant, nearly forty years ago. Jesus was found in this church then and is still here now even though He may be harder to find amidst all the "winds of doctrine" blowing today. Here's to the truth and nothing but the truth because Jesus is the "whole truth."

Yours for a clearer vision,

Pastor, Texas

 

EDITORIAL notes

Thanks for the Dialogue

Communication is a two-way street—let's keep it going

Last Sabbath (November 8, 1997) I preached in one of the smaller congregations in the Southern California Conference. I spoke in Tehachapi, California, up in the high desert. Now, I have to tell you, I'm not much for deserts. People tell me all the time how beautiful they are and that if I'd just get to know and understand them, I'd really learn to appreciate them. That may be true, but right now I'm just not interested in getting that close! But I must tell you, I really enjoyed Tehachapi! Not the desert part, but the church part.

Usually when I preach, there's not much interaction between the congregation and myself. We each just do what we're "supposed" to do. I preach. They listen. And, having heard a fair number of other preachers, that appears to be the way it's supposed to be.

But not in Tehachapi! These people were into the service! There were "amens" and "praise the Lord's." If what I said was funny, they laughed. If a point hit home, I could tell it registered by the looks on their faces. There was communication going on! It wasn't a one-way street like most sermons I've heard or preached. And when it was over, at least one person wished there had been time scheduled to continue the dialogue. What a great idea!

Sometimes when editing TogetherAgain, I feel like I'm preaching a one-way sermon—like it's a one-way conversation. But that is changing. With this issue we've decided to print some of the letters we receive from you.

I hope it starts a trend and we begin hearing from more of you. Let us know what you find helpful and what you don't. Share with us what you're doing that works and what doesn't. Tell us your stories—of friends who came back and those who left. Ask us questions. Challenge us. Write for us.

We've been doing the talking long enough. The dialogue has begun. Let's keep it going!

—Gary E. Russell