Sunday, March 2, 2008

Who The Heck Is That?

I can't tell you how many times I'm talking with someone in our church about something that's going on, and I tell them, "If you want to know more, just get in touch with so-and-so," and then they say, "Hmmm, I don't think I know who that is." (In fact, I overheard a conversation just like that this morning!) And this happens not just with people who are new and haven't had a chance to meet a lot of people, but with people who have been here for several years, or even lots of years.

We're great at welcoming new people and helping them feel comfortable. We do a reasonably good job of helping people get plugged in to a small group or a ministry team, and they begin to develop relationships with a few people. But we're still a small church--there's no reason so many people should have to walk in and feel like they don't even know the names of the majority of the people around them. What's going on?

Well, part of the issue is that we have two services, so some people just don't ever cross paths. And that's ok. We have two services so that we can keep open seats and make sure there's enough room for new people to come and be comfortable. If we grew to the point where we were filling up two services, we'd add a third and a fourth and a fifth if necessary! We want to make sure that there's always enough room for new people.

But the other part of the story is that we don't have a tool that helps people make connections in our church outside of their current circles. The best tool I know of for that purpose is a photo directory. A photo directory helps you put names with faces and faces with names. A photo directory prompts statements like, "Oh! That's who that is!" and "I've always wondered what that person's name is!" and "I've seen them before, but I didn't want to introduce myself since I know they've been coming for over a year now" and, of course "I learned their name two months ago, but now I've forgotten it, so I can't ask what it is again."

These kinds of thoughts and feelings make it difficult for us to establish and develop relationships in our church. They cause us to stick with the people we already know and ignore the people we don't know. Eventually, it could cause us to be unwelcoming to the new people, and we could drive them away because we get in the habit of only interacting with the people we know.

I'm happy to tell you that we'll be putting together a new photo directory this spring. Pictures will be taken on Monday, May 12, and Tuesday, May 13. Please put those dates on your calendar as soon as possible, and make an intentional decision to get your family's picture taken on one of those days. The more people who participate the more useful a tool it will be for us.

There are some neat features with this directory that will make it even more useful:

  • Phone numbers and addresses next to each photo so that you don't have to look them up in the back separately.
  • Email addresses and personal websites for those who want to share that information.
  • Lists of favorite family activities, hobbies, and ministries in the church to help us know a little bit more about each other, and to make it easy to find people with whom we have common interests.
  • The directory company will give us a CD-version of the directory that we can make copies of and distribute. The CD-version is also edit-able, so that as new people come into the church, we can take their photos and add them in. For those without computers, we will print additional pages that can be inserted in the back of the directories.

You would be amazed how effective a photo directory can be in helping new people get connected and engaged with a church. It's so much more than just a phone book--it's a relationship-building engine.

Our goal is to be a church of relationships, not a church with relationships. It's a crucial component of Real Community. Please make sure that you're involved with the directory in May to help it be as effective and useful as possible!

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