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Churches see results from Open House Month

Churches see results from Open House Month

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Churches see results from Open House Month

Aug. 3, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando {0341} 

An e-Review Feature
By Emily Reece**

"Our message is 'We care about you just because we're here in this neighborhood with you,' and that's why we go and talk to people," said The Rev. Beatrice Robinson, pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Jackson, Michigan.

In September 2004, Trinity participated in The United Methodist Church's "Open House Month" to launch a new ministry, "Gardeners for God," and to highlight the church's fall program offerings. The church held an event on the church lawn under tents and offered free food, mixers and "creation station" activities to introduce its neighbors to the church's Sunday School theme. The outdoor activities, complete with entertainment, attracted passersby and enabled the church to interact with neighbors in a new way.

PUNTA GORDA — Hurricanes Charley and Frances offered many churches the opportunity to do more than invite and welcome their neighbors last September. Members were able to be the church for people struggling to get back to some semblance of normalcy after the storms. Like many churches in hard-hit areas, First United Methodist Church  here provided ice, water, supplies and hot meals to its neighbors. Photo by Michael Wacht, Photo #05-221.

"We shared food, fellowship and fun with many from the neighborhood and community," Robinson said. "The presence of the Holy Spirit was clearly felt."

Each September is Open House Month at United Methodist churches across the country. It offers an opportunity for congregations to engage their communities and share Christ's spirit by inviting and welcoming newcomers. In the past four years, churches have embraced this opportunity and made connections with their communities in creative and interesting ways, such as Trinity's event last year. National Neighborhood Day, which takes place the second Sunday of September, offers another opportunity to sponsor events that welcome neighbors and build community connections. This year's National Neighborhood Day is Sept. 11.

Following Trinity's launch of "Gardeners for God," a tool-lending program that helps Trinity's neighbors borrow tools to care for their properties, the church continued serving the community and getting to know its neighbors. By edging sidewalks, cleaning up the surrounding area and distributing fliers to encourage people to drop off yard trash at the church parking lot on a "Neighborhood Clean-up Day," the congregation, whose average attendance is about 85 people, has become known as a friendly, good neighbor. As a result of these efforts, the neighborhood has been spruced up and a few children and families have become involved in the church.

"Talking to neighbors and offering invitations is becoming a real breakout point for our congregation," Robinson said.

Cheyenne Grace United Methodist Church, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, used last year's Open House Month as a time to launch a new "Bring One, Grow One" invitation challenge. The church, which recently received19 new members, has grown in average attendance from 130 at the end of 2004 to 180 people as of May 2005 at two worship services.

The Rev. Jon K. Laughlin, pastor of the church, attributes the church's success to an emphasis on people. "Ministry is all about people," he said. "They need to get comfortable with the church. Then they might consider a program."

During a worship service last September the church took a survey to assess its strong and weak points for welcoming in an effort to focus its attention on better serving new people. The results revealed a need to improve how members converse with guests and then introduce them to other members. A more intentional greeter ministry, with the goal of introducing guests to five people before they sit down for worship, was just one strategy for improvement.

The church will do a follow-up survey this September to assess how things have changed in a year. One result they already know: of the 19 new members who recently joined the church, 18 came because someone personally invited them.

Additional ideas and welcoming models for Open House Month can be found at The Web site also offers advice and guidelines for placing advertising, along with fresh welcoming and training ideas. For information and ideas about National Neighborhood Day visit


This article relates to Outreach.

*Parham managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Reece is training manager for Igniting Ministry at United Methodist Communications in Nashville.