Every new minister who arrives at a new assignment knows to be weary of making too many changes that alter the pattern of relationships or experiences in the community as one may inadvertently trample on the sensibilities of the established core. And so, how shifts or enhancements come into being is key to anything new or different being valued and welcomed.
During our tryout visit, we noticed that first time guests were welcomed early in the service followed by a meet and greet activity. I have known for some time that according to “best practices” it is better to welcome guests toward the end of the service not near the beginning. This allows first time visitors to have an experience of the service before being asked to identify themselves as first-time guests.
Once we arrived to begin our ministry, we asked that the acknowledgment of first time guests happen just prior to the offertory. This way they can be invited to fill out a guest info card and then asked to place it in the offering bag instead of feeling obligated to make a donation. They are also told that, as a first time guest, they can receive a complementary CD of the service a beverage at our Barista.
What happened next was not anticipated, but a very cool unintended consequence of making this minor change in the order of service. Our communications director (paid staff person) routinely creates an AV script for the sound booth technician music team, and platform volunteers as our service is relatively high tech with respect to PowerPoint, lighting, and sound levels. Anyway, I digress. Much to my surprise, not only did she make this change in the AV script, but she also moved the meet and greet activity as well (since they were already bundled) in our order of service. And so, the welcoming of first-time guests happen just before the offering as planned, but unbeknowst to us, the meet and greet activity happened next.
Now, its been my experience, that meet and greet (sharing of the peace) happens early in the service in most ministries. I have never really liked the meet and greet part of the service as it feels contrived and not very authentic (at least that’s what I typically feel). Being an introvert makes this activity even more unappealing. But, everything changes when people greet each other AFTER they have had the experience of the meditation and lesson. The difference in how people interact and engage the process of welcoming and greeting each other is both inspiring and transformational. People absolutely loved interacting with each other, especially immediately after the experience of a dynamic and inspiring talk.
We received so many positive comments from the community from the very first Sunday this change in the order of service went into effect. The experience lasts about 5 minutes. People reluctantly settle down after we resume the fellowship song.
Here is our current order of service:
- Musical Prelude
- Opening Affirmation (There is only one presence and one power active in my life and in the universe, God the Good) This means that nothing and no one is against us. So we are here today to deal with our exceptions to this principle.
- Fellowship Song
- Community Announcements
- Center Update with Dr. Gary (more about this later)
- Meditation Song
- Special Music
- Sunday Lesson
- Acknowledgment and Welcoming of first time guests
- Fellowship song followed by meet and greet
- Offertory Affirmation
- Special Music
- Blessing of tithes and gifts
- Introduce Chaplains
- Welcoming & Blessings of Children and Youth Educators
- Closing Prayer (Prayer for Protection)
- Peace Song
One other unexpected benefit: the number of guest info cards returned to us has tripled since this change went into effect. It seems that people are more inclined to provide their contact info AFTER they have had the complete experience of participating in the service.