Can we kill off the Newcomers’ Lunch … pleeeease?
If I hear of one more “newcomer’s lunch” at a church … I think I’m gonna scream. Now that’s going to upset a few pastors! What’s wrong with a newcomer’s lunch?
Well – in my view, pretty much everything!
If we were new to a church, would we want to be branded and herded off to lunch?
It seems to me that in many churches the program has supplanted a sense of spontaneous community. I had one person suggest on a recent blog post that maybe it’s because we’ve lost our social skills – we’ve forgotten how to be a community … so we start manufacturing it.
That’s certainly part of it. Add to that the industrious pastor who, spurred on by the board of elders (or whatever they’re called) wants to “reach out”, to “integrate people”, to “grow disciples”, to “increase home group participation rates” and to hit other equally laudable KPIs … and there you have fertile ground for the victory of the program, over spontaneous, organic, natural, rich, loving, relational community.
Now – do we need to be organised? Do we need rosters and discipleship courses and mothers’ groups and greeters and … all those other things? Of course we do! Absolutely. Otherwise we’d be a disorganised rabble. Ministry would be a shambles.
But – I don’t know – at some point, the program became more important than the people. At some point we put the organisational stuff front and centre, and we decided to start processing people through the system. At some point we decided we would need more than a few sausages, a bottle of tomato sauce, a half dozen bread rolls and some coleslaw to invite someone home for a BBQ after church.
When you arrive at a new church, do you want to be labelled a “newcomer” and herded into the quarterly “newcomers’ lunch” in 11 weeks time, or would you rather have someone around your own age invite you home for a BBQ, or out for a coffee on about the second or third week after you showed up?
Do we want to be labelled “elderly” and invited to a special morning tea for “the older folk”? Do we want to be identified as a “single” to be invited to a “singles function” … or do we just want someone to take an interest in us and discover who we are, where we’ve been and what we have to offer?
There’s an organisational theorem that goes something like this: the more meetings you have in an organisation, the less genuine communication is actually going on. Let’s morph that just a little into the church context.
The more that we are a church made up by and defined through our programs, the less we are a loving community in Christ.
You know what I hunger for?
A church where people actually know their giftings; where, with a minimum of fuss and with the fewest possible number of rosters and programs, each person finds their place to exercise their giftings and bless the rest of the church; where our sense of community is natural and organic; where programs are necessary but secondary; where the newcomers’ lunch is a thing of the past.
I guess what I’m rambling on about is something that functions more like a body … than a machine.
I agree. We seem to need to manufacture authenticity, community, friendship, love and outreach. We package it, label it and serve it on a platter. The only problem is, that’s like getting a burger at White Castle. It’s got the right form, but that ain’t real meat.
I’m glad Indy Ink shared this post with me. Just today, a couple approached my wife and I after church. We are relatively new, and they’ve been there for a year. They came up, introduced themselves and after talking for 20 minutes, we were exchanging numbers and making plans to hang out soon. Imagine that? Genuine Christian fellowship.
Thanks so much for sharing this. That couple who’d been at your church for just a year who built a bridge into your lives … Did what each one of us can do. It just ain’t rocket science and what a powerful, missional and rewarding thing it is to do.
So many people belong to churches and yet don’t have many friends. Of course we’re not going to click with everyone in our fellowship – but just to or three or four friends, and the body of Christ is a happening thing.
What bothers me and forgive me if I offend anyone is that is the “labeling” and at some point or another that person feels like one is being isolated, and in some way outcast. which leaves me to question if were suppose to show love, Is that truly the way???
Love can be expressed in spontaneity as well as organization and structure. What matters is that we express it.
My prayer is that every one of us will grow to love in a way more and more like how Jesus loves us, love so amazing he died for us.
I think you’re absolutely right. I guess where I’m coming from is that when people are more and more being process through “programs” – if that’s how it feels to them – are they going to feel loved?
And does the “program” end up displacing the spontaneity of community within the church?
Ok. Seriously, this is so right on that I’m going to have to FB it. Anytime I try a new church, I skip that newcomer’s lunch. Not interested in having a truckload of awkward with bad fried chicken and potato salad.
Yay! I’m part of a relational church like that, so am very blessed – fewer meetings, more spontaneous get togethers. There are always though, even though we look out to make friends with new faces, people who drift in and out without much notice, stick to the fringes and drop off. Sometimes it’s because they are not very comfortable socially, sometimes because they have an encounter with a hurting soul who is not able to minister to them. What to do about those? We do what we can when we can but there’s always that one we missed. Maybe that’s why ‘newcomer’s lunches’ were invented. Could we just call them something else? A get to know you BBQ?