by Rev. Dr. Stephen Furrer and Nicole Duff
The ESUC Growth Plan was unveiled in the Annual Meeting on June 14. It has been a long process and is still only the start! To grow we must adapt and welcome all with open arms.
Phase I: Eliminate Unwelcoming and Counterproductive Ways
- STOP ALL SUNDAY BUSINESS MEETINGS. PERIOD.
- Exceptions: Congregational Meetings
- NO Team meetings, and welcoming events CAN happen
- No excuses, we all know Zoom now! You can find another day/time
- Get Better At Talking to Visitors/People We Don’t Know
- Every Sunday, talk to ONE person you don’t already know, it could be a member you just haven’t met, it could be a visitor, but the more you practice talking to people you don’t know the better!
- Practice talking to kids and LISTEN to them!
- Remember, kids can’t come without parents, and parents never come without their kids!
- Realize Not Everyone Knows What You Are Saying
- When you practice, stop using acronyms. Imagine each person you are talking to be a person you met at the grocery store. They don’t know that ESJCC oversees ECAM and is working on a project with the DRE to do something in OWL recommended by the UUA. You might as well be speaking a different language.
- Getting the new website up and running – Now only weeks away!
- Know the website is designed for visitors, which may mean you don’t get ALL the words you want on the page, but that’s ok! It’s designed to help engage people AND you!!!
Phase II: Prepare for New People—Make Room
- Make room in the Sanctuary! Leave open seats, particularly on the aisles and in the back (once we are back!).
- Remember… sometimes growth is uncomfortable! Remember how kids cry during growing pains? To grow the church you may “lose your regular seat” one Sunday or be asked to sit closer to the front.
- Talk About What It Means To Be Welcoming
- Talk about it
- Practice it
- Talk about it some more
- Practice it even more
- And help each other! You might have to say to a friend “We are trying to be more welcoming and what you are doing isn’t welcoming.” Can you?
- Make Room for People to Fit In
- Term limits are great for allowing new leadership and new ideas! That means you might have to take time OFF of a team to allow someone else to feel like they can own it for a bit.
- Learn to love and welcome new ideas! It doesn’t mean you are WRONG, it means someone else cares enough to think of it a different way… a way that might attract someone else!
- Allow for new teams and new ideas!
- Never say “But that’s how we’ve always done it here,” the eight last words of a dying church!
- Expand Your Circle! Yes, you can have friends, and remember everyone in ESUC is part of your beloved community and therefore is in your circle!
- Treat Young Adults/Youth as ADULTS not as people who don’t have as much value.
- Treat Kids as the FUTURE and not a nuisance. If they don’t feel welcome as kids why would they EVER come back as an adult?
- Complete the UUA’s Welcoming Congregation Renewal
- Yes, this is about LGBTQA+, but it’s good remembers on how to be welcoming to all!
- Remember the BIGGER Picture!
- It’s not about what is best for YOU as an individual, but about what’s best for the COMMUNITY, and that might require some shifting. Which one needs to be ok with in order to be welcoming.
Phase III: Love Your Church and Let Others Know!
- Realize talking about your church and loving your church is NOT being Evangelical!!!!
- Talk about your church
- Talk about the events at your church
- LOVE your church
- Invite people to the things YOU love! And it doesn’t have to be worship!
- East Shore LIVE!
- Tuesday Potlucks
- Cookies & Carols
- Meaningful Movies
- And MORE! All of these things are not “Church” and are easy to invite people to!
- Outreach will do Marketing during this time as well
- NO amount of outside marketing will have a fraction of the effect as people talking about their church and inviting people. Stop relying on paid ads to do the work.
Phase IV: Do Things Differently!
- Greet EVERYONE!!!
- New people, your friends, KIDS! EVERYONE!!!!!
- Know not everyone shares the same beliefs, and that’s OK! We could have someone who is more conservative or more liberal… the point is the principles and the covenant.
- Don’t worry about running out of food. There are always extra cookies and snacks in the kitchen.
- People are longing to be fed… spiritually AND physically. Feeding EVERYONE (including their kids) will make them fill full.
Phase V: Know it Doesn’t Always Happen on YOUR Schedule
- People come to church on their own time. You might tell someone about ESUC and they don’t come for 5 years… and that’s OK!
- We are in this for the LONG haul! We are not a toilet paper company who puts a coupon in the paper and is hoping for greater sales, we are looking for long time members who want to fully engage.
To meet our ten-year projections, we need to enroll sixty-five new members this coming year. Is that impossible? Not if we link our hearts and spirits together. But we have to make a meaningful and nearly universal pledge to become a truly hospitable and welcoming church, so that a couple of years from now when you next start the process of looking for new minister, members will seriously and honestly describe ESUC as Bellevue’s Antidote to the Seattle Freeze.