“Why don’t the pastors give ‘the invitation’ after the sermon anymore?” The Elders have discussed this and it was a topic of conversation at the General Board meeting a number of years ago. Among congregations that identify as Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) many still offer “the invitation” to confess Christ or join the congregation by transfer of membership. It is a time honored tradition, but as Tevye learned in Fiddler on the Roof, some traditions change with the passage of time.
When there was greater shared knowledge of denominational identity, traditions like “the call” were self-evident to larger groups of people. This is no longer the case, particularly outside the mid-west and south. Frankly, it is demoralizing to give the invitation every week and have no response over and over and over. It is also counter-productive to actually being invitational.
Being invitational requires intention. Intention demands a relational approach that was missing. FCC Pomona is not the first congregation to approach membership in a new way and we won’t be the last. With help from the Program Cabinet, a Visitor’s Lunch has been instituted as a regularly scheduled event. Mike and I and members of the Program Cabinet invite people who’ve been visiting the church. The invitation is to come and find out more about who we are as a congregation, our connection to the Disciples and the things that matter to us as people seeking to follow the way of Christ.
Our first visitor’s lunch saw 14 people in attendance including members of the Program Cabinet, serving as hosts. The second lunch had a dozen people present. After each lunch, a Sunday was offered as a day that people could join if they felt ready. This way, they didn’t have to go forward alone, which was a real barrier for many people in years past.
Membership is a significant commitment and we want people to feel comfortable making that commitment on their own volition. We are creating a path to make that clearer and more intentional on the part of the congregation. As a result this year, 12 people decided to make that commitment.
The commitment to be part of the body of Christ is a life-long process of renewal and growth. As people make the commitment to be part of the body of Christ at FCC Pomona, we will be changed and renewed by the gifts and initiative they bring. Thanks be to God.