On the front end of outreach is connecting with visitors. A call for reader responses to The Lutheran indicated these practices:
• Providing an inviting and hospitable environment in which different kinds of people feel welcome.
• Providing a safe, loving and comfortable nursery where children feel important and cherished.
• Welcoming visitors with genuine care and compassion, not just with a one-time polite greeting. Making visitors feel like their presence really makes a difference.
• Intentionally following up with visitors through phone calls and other techniques, like delivering home-baked goods to a visitor's home.
• Providing ministries that allow people of all ages to grow spiritually and use their gifts fully in the life of the church.
• Getting new members connected early with other people and involved in ministry, such as small groups.
When Kevin Ruffcorn launches a congregation, he
takes the word "launch" seriously. Ruffcorn offered the community
hot-air balloon rides to celebrate the church's opening.
"The rides helped us get better acquainted with our neighbors," says Ruffcorn, pastor of Desert Streams Lutheran Church, Surprise, Ariz. "When people see hot-air balloons, they almost always take a second glance. Most have positive thoughts."
The red, seven-story hot-air balloon — emboldened with a 40-foot cross — garnered publicity for the new congregation in two local newspapers. In addition, volunteers distributed door hangers and sent mass mailings to residents, resulting in more than 200 visitors to the first worship service last September.
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