by The Reverend Brian Winter
Have you ever wondered how newcomers get to your front door, how they are welcomed in, and then if they are being connected to your community or not? Well, on Saturday, Sept. 8th more than 80 people from 17 different congregations in Colorado and Wyoming spent the day pondering that question and looking at ways to better Invite, Welcome, and Connect people into their congregations.
The High Plains Region welcomed Mary Parmer and her Invite, Welcome, Connect program to Colorado for a day long seminar. Mary is the creator and Director of Invite, Welcome Connect at the Beecken Center, The University of the South School of Theology and she invited participants to take a good look at their own church and consider how each of these areas are implemented and how they can be improved. High Schooler Liv Hornsby, from Good Shepherd Episcopal Church in Centennial, shared in a video taken at the event that, “the key to welcoming people to church are the kids…If the kids feel welcome then the rest of the family feels welcome.”
The training, held at St. Gabriel The Archangel in Cherry Hills Village, included presentations from Parmer, great videos about how and how not to invite people to church, and lots of Post-It notes! Within each category of Invite, Welcome, Connect, the congregations gathered with their attendees and brainstormed about how they can better approach and implement those specific areas. Lyndell Sippel from Christ’s Episcopal Church in Castle Rock, explained that she loved the way the church groups were able to reflect on where they needed to focus to bring in and connect people with the church. She added, “The other thing that really stood out to me was the discussion on being able to really listen to our visitors and current members and help them in discerning where their ministry gifts/interests are.”
Parmer stressed that this is not a program you implement for a year and then move on to the next program, but a new way of being church, one in which we are always aware and looking for new ways to invite, welcome, and connect people into our communities. “It works best if it becomes part of our DNA, just who we are as the body of Christ in our communities.”
Paul Alexander, Missioner for Development and Financial Stewardship for The Episcopal Church in Colorado, shared that, “The fundamental values and ways of being in the world that are at the core of Invite, Welcome, Connect are also essential to stewardship and discipleship. We seek to engage each other prayerfully, intentionally, through deep, listening relationships, and by being mutually accountable to one other. I look forward to working closely with congregations that embrace this way of hospitality and community.”
Amy Clark, a participant from St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Centennial said, “The Invite, Welcome, Connect event was a special time to gather with fellow Episcopalians and discern how we can grow our communities – both in breadth and depth. Mary Parmer’s resources provided ample suggestions for departure points and the breakout sessions allowed space for parish-specific reflection and brainstorming. St. Tim’s will benefit from the time spent on Saturday for years to come.”
The Rev. EJ Rivet, the hospitality coordinator for the event and Assisting Priest at St. Gabriel said, “I truly believe that the message of Invite Welcome Connect is one that needs to be spread throughout Colorado.”
Mary Parmer now has a book out, Invite, Welcome, Connect: Stories and Tools to Transform Your Church, published by Forward Movement, and also has videos, tools, and ideas on her website, http://www.invitewelcomeconnect.com/. With those tools in hand, any congregation can start learning and implementing Invite, Welcome, Connect in their own context in order to discern how they might be better evangelists and welcome all of God’s people into their midst.