The Little Things that Show You Care

Bible Information Class

It always amazes me how much the “little things” matter. People don’t always recognize the hours you put in on organizing an outreach event, but they notice it when you greeted them as strangers when they came, made them feel at home, and bent down to the level of their child to give him a high five. That’s what they remember and it shows you care.

We just started another series of Bible Information Classes. That’s a big thing. However, we try not to lose sight of the “little things” that matter. Here are a few ideas to give your preparation for the class a personal touch.

Personal Invites: Make an invitation to the class on your church letterhead with the details listed. Keep it short. There is an example invitation available here. Over the course of the month and a half preceding the start of a class, I’ll try to make it to 40-50 “hot” prospects’ homes with this personal invitation in hand. These are the un-churched people who have visited worship in the last 3 months or the un-churched who have come to a recent outreach event or a referral from a member and so on. It’s not a long visit (necessarily). It’s just a “How’s the summer going? It was great that you joined us for ____________ . From time to time we offer these great classes that give an overview of what the Bible teaches. They also serve as our membership class. I’d love you to join us for it.” Sometimes it’s only 5 minutes at their doorstep, but it’s amazing how that visit is what sticks out in someone’s mind to show how much a church cares.

Make It Easy for Them: In the sample invitation, you’ll notice that we usually run two classes at the same time. That helps them by giving more flexibility if they know they can’t be there on a Sunday, they can come on Wednesday instead for that week. They also will appreciate knowing that you’re willing to come to their home if they need to miss a week to make up the material. It shows it’s important to you and so are they. It also helps you, by the way. Since we went to the repeated class set up, the amount of “make-up” lessons I do has been reduced drastically. At the end of the course, we hold a “Where Am I at Immanuel” half-day workshop for them on a Saturday or Sunday over the lunch hour. Here we cover those doctrinal points that aren’t necessarily touched on thoroughly in whichever BIC we’re using and we bring in over a dozen leaders in the church to introduce themselves and tell them about an aspect of our ministry. We have a catered meal, decorate the room, put table clothes on, make sure there are plenty of snacks, give them a nicely laid out packet of information on Immanuel, etc. Those are all little things that show you care – they are also little things that people in your congregation are gifted at organizing.

Make Them Feel Welcome: When a prospect comes to class for the first time, they are often surprised when they see in front of them an Immanuel mug, a pen, a nice binder for their materials, a Bible – and it’s theirs to keep. It’s a $10 investment per prospect – even if 50 prospects walk through those doors, that $500 is money well spent! Wouldn’t that be a wonderful problem to have? For every class, we set out good coffee, tea and lemonade. All these little things show that we value them and care for them – it also makes them feel more comfortable. It’s all preparation that helps gain an audience for the precious Gospel message you have to share!

God’s blessings as you do those little things that show you care!

Rev. David Scharf

David Scharf serves as pastor of Immanuel Lutheran in Greenville, WI. Pastor Scharf also serves as a member of the WELS Commission for Congregational Counseling.

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IWO Annual Meeting

The Institute will convene its annual meeting on May 21, 2012, at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

Three essays will be presented to the group for discussion:

  • Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, and the use of variety in worship, by Earle Treptow
  • The Liturgy and its Use in our Church, by James Tiefel
  • Election and Evangelism, by John Brenner

Look for these essays and reactions to be posted to the Institute website in the coming weeks.

Rev. Jonathan E. Schroeder

Jonathan Schroeder is the pastor of Faith Lutheran in Sharpsburg, GA. He serves as the Moderator of the Institute of Worship and Outreach, pastor-at-large on the Synodical Council, and is actively involved in WELS School of Outreach and WELS School of Worship.

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Easter Afterglow and Outreach

Suddenly, it’s done. After all the Holy Week planning, preparing, promoting, and presiding. It’s over. Post-Easter Monday began with a round of golf with some fellow pastors. It was good to get away. Now, that we’re on the other side of Easter Sunday:
1. What do I need to be doing now? Prioritize and get busy!
2. What went well from Lent & Easter? Build on it for next year.
3. What could have been done better? Learn from, adapt, or change.

What do I need to be doing now?

I’m going to devote as many hours as necessary this week for follow ups. My schedule is cleared of evening meetings the whole week. The goal is that not a single visitor from the community will slip through the cracks. If they left an address but no phone number, that’s a “drive-by”. If they wrote down only an email address, they will be added to the weekly “Our Savior’s Family & Friends” email with its minute meditation and “taste” of what to expect for upcoming Sunday’s worship. To receive precious prospect contact information and do nothing with it is to dig a hole and bury the friendship registers in the ground similar to the lazy servant of Jesus’ parable.

I also need to intentionally share prospect follow up with my church members. A part of me wants to do all the follow up because I like it and am comfortable it. God’s incredible blessing of a 150+ visitors will make that impossible. I will need my follow up team with me. There is the opportunity for members to make connections with prospects. Some live in the same subdivisions together. Others will relate better by age or the geographical area from where they relocated.

There will be plenty of prospect follow up for the pastor with those who indicated, “Would like pastor to call” or “New to the community” or “Interested in membership”. I’m on them like crazy.

What went well from Lent & Easter?

I believe our sunrise service has undiscovered potential for the future due to its location within the community. Easter sunrise service was held at a gorgeous botanical gardens located in the central part of our community. Dating back to the early 1800s, the original sugar mill plantation ruins still stand. Unlike other years, our sunrise service was held directly in front of those old ruins with the sunrise and a message of new life in Christ in the background. In addition to our usual, professionally-done, Easter mass mailing (5,000), we hand-delivered 1,000 flyers to homes in the immediate vicinity with the invite (the summarized gist), “Easter Sunrise … Bring your coffee.” Seventy-five percent of the attendees were non-members. A full one-third came from the 1,000 home-made flyer campaign that cost a total of $18. It was cheap but not cheesy, home-produced but with a quality message of, “This is especially done for you, neighbor.”

What could have been done better?

I forgot to bring the friendship registers to the off-site sunrise location. I could kick myself. Sure, all our contact information was printed out for them in the service folder. But my memory lapse cost me the valuable driver’s seat of prospect follow up. Now I’m helplessly in the backseat praying some of dozens will somehow follow up on my church. Note to self: DON’T DO THAT AGAIN!

Also, we won’t ask them to bring their coffee to Easter sunrise but have fresh-brewed coffee ready for them upon arrival. It will make for a little more work and planning, but will only add to the early morning appeal. I can see it already: a line of early morning worshippers getting a service folder in one hand and a cup of java in the other to help speed their steps as we race to see the empty tomb!

We need to capitalize on the uniqueness of our sunrise service. Note to self: Next year, call the Daytona Beach News Journal and invite them to report and publish an article with photos on our church-hosted, “Sugar Mill Sunrise Service.” Then, ask if it can be part of the Saturday edition (the day before Easter). It doesn’t matter that the local Baptist churches have a lock on the beach side sunrise services attended by the hundreds. Ours is a closer and more central alternative for the remaining tens of thousands.
The timing of the distribution for the sunrise service flyer affected turn-out. While believers plan to attend Easter, unchurched don’t. Many simply react instantaneously: “Hey, that sunrise thing sounds neat. Let’s do it tomorrow morning.” As weird as it may sound, another note to self: plan on 2,500 door-to-door sunrise service flyers to be hand-delivered Thursday through Saturday of Holy Week next year. It can be done: 3 days, 2 hours a day, and 10 volunteers each day. It can be done.

Suddenly, Easter is not done. It’s just beginning. Happy prospecting in the Easter afterglow!

Note to self for next blog entry: How different will a repeat visitor’s worship experience be the Sundays after Easter? As if to say to the visitor, “Sorry, we had you in mind last Sunday, but now we need to get back to our ‘normal’ worship?” Without changing worship, what features can be carried over from high festivals that will benefit the repeat worship visitor?
How can we promote the upcoming Good Shepherd, Ascension, and Pentecost experiences?

Rev. Donn Dobberstein

Donn Dobberstein serves as pastor of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Port Orange, FL. He also serves as the chairman of the WELS Commission on Evangelism, and as a presenter with the WELS School of Outreach.

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