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.
Over coffee, I learned a bit more about the cloud of witnesses behind Peter Marty, the new host for Grace Matters, the ELCA radio ministry. They include: Paul Landahl, the pastor who told a young Marty that "religion isn't phony, faith is practical and relationships matter"; a beloved brother who "collapsed into the world of the mentally ill"; and a mother who died from cancer while he was volunteering in Cameroon, building houses with construction skills she taught him.
"It was six weeks before I got the letter that told me she was ill," he says. "She said there was ... nothing [I] could do. I should stay and finish my work.... She handled the family like an Army officer full of love. Everyone had their assignments. That's how we took in foster kids and foreign exchange students. We had a good life.... There's still a void."
What would his mom say about his being on the radio? "I think she'd say: 'Peter will do this ministry well. I think he pushes too hard at the expense of those who love him, but the church will definitely get their money's worth,' " he says.
Those who love him — especially his wife, Susan, and their children, Jacob, 16, and Rachel, 13 — help provide balance, Marty says. He still tucks the kids in at night, and they all say prayers together and talk about their day. "We take an interest in one another," he says. "You can't just live your own lives."
And, yes, if you're into the Lutheran "who's who," you may wonder about his last name. It's ironic that he's become the ELCA's radio evangelist when he once ducked Lutheran circles, even in seminary, because of his famous theologian father, Martin Marty.
"I wanted to be in some circle other than a tight Lutheran circle where I might be known only through him," he says. With a wry smile, he shares briefly that, once, when a reporter learned he was Martin Marty's son, it shifted the article's focus. "I love my father dearly, but that's all the reporter wanted to talk about," he says gently. "And we're two different people."
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers