4523 Six Forks Rd. Raleigh, NC 27609
New Life, Rejuvenation, and New Beginnings this Eastertide
Dear Members and Friends of Saint Timothy’s,
New beginnings, new life, rejuvenation, and the Resurrection are on our minds and hearts in this Eastertide. Our thoughts and prayers will soon turn to the coming of the Holy Ghost as Pentecost is in the middle of this month. For the purposes of this letter, I want to stay with the Resurrection and new life in Christ subject. There is, and needs to be, a new beginning in the life of our parish and I’m hoping it can start all of us learning about and putting in place a process for having Saint Timothy’s grow in membership. Growth in our membership will indeed bring new life, rejuvenation and many new beginnings to Saint Timothy’s.
I’m well into my twenty-fourth year here at Saint Timothy’s and after all those years I have mixed reactions to our record of bringing new members into the Church. On the one hand, I’m proud that we have not stopped trying to bring people into the Church so they can enjoy all the good things that we have at Saint Timothy’s. On the other hand, if someone asked me what I regret about the past twenty-four years, it would be that we have not “cracked the nut” on how to have a regular, systematic approach to getting and keeping people at Saint Timothy’s. We have tried and attempted all sorts of things. We have written, visited, invited, prodded, begged, driven, called and taken many other actions to move someone from “visitor” status to “faithful member” status.
In this season of new life and Resurrection we have begun a new and exciting method or process so people can have a new life with Jesus Christ. After all, that is why we exist. When we bring new members into the Church we are inviting them into a life with Jesus Christ. The process is called Invite, Welcome, Connect. This was first presented to our delegates and me at the last Diocesan Convention. Mary Parmer, from the Diocese of Texas, has created a thorough process that has been tried in a number of parishes around the country and has proven results. There are actions to take that work for bringing more people into churches, and there are things that we ought not to do if we want more people to become part of our parish. Mary Parmer, as the keynote speaker of our Convention, seemed to be speaking directly to our need here at Saint Timothy’s. She described what needs doing to get more people into Saint Timothy’s, how to make them know and feel a part of the parish and how to get them “connected” with the parish so they stay part of the church. It was clear to all of us attending the Convention that we needed to learn more and implement as much as we can of the Invite, Welcome, Connect “process” here at Saint Timothy’s. I invite everyone to go to invitewelcomeconnect.com and learn more.
On April thirtieth some members of the Vestry (Kevin Bodiford, Mike Lewis, Deanna Lord David Mason, Marie Stewart and Ed Watson), some members of key organizations in the parish (Duncan and Sarah Culton, Mary Watson and Betsy James) and I attended an all-day workshop at Saint Philip’s Church in Durham on how to implement the helpful and effective practices of Invite, Welcome, Connect. We were able to examine what practices and activities actually work to have more people truly feel “invited” into the church. We reviewed good practices inside and outside the parish to have people actually feel “welcomed” into parish churches. For the “Connect” part of Invite, Welcome, Connect we learned what it takes to have people who come into the parish truly become part of the life of the parish. When they do truly become part of the parish they deepen their life with Christ and stay active and involved because they are truly being spiritually fed.
We know the process of inviting, welcoming and connecting works because we have seen the evidence. The real work begins now because in the course of the workshop we examined what things we do here at Saint Timothy’s that work. These are gifts that we have as a parish that need to continue. We found out what things we do, but really need to be done better. We also learned many things that we do not do, but would be easy to start doing. We generated many ideas in these three areas of inviting, welcoming and connecting. We brought these ideas back to the parish and will now begin to put them in place.
None of this will be effective, if we do not all get on board to becoming a more inviting, welcoming, connecting parish. Think of the “inviting” part as evangelism. Think of the “welcoming” part as hospitality and think of the “connecting” part as putting peoples’ gifts to work for ministry. It will be helpful to have all of us aware that if someone is interested in Saint Timothy’s, and interested enough to visit, it is incumbent on all of us to use what we’ve put in place with Invite, Welcome, Connect to move them from “visitor” to faithful, practicing parishioner. We will all have to learn more about how to do this and I hope all of us will examine the gifts we have and use them when asked. We cannot have Saint Timothy’s grow with a few willing and hardworking parishioners. It will take change over an extended period to have all of us creating an atmosphere where we all invite, we all welcome and we all connect. If we do this we will be doing what God is calling us to do while we’re here in this part of His Kingdom.
Yours faithfully, in the Crucified, Resurrected, Ascended and Returning Lord Jesus,
The Reverend Jay C. James, Rector