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    Unwelcome Visitors

    Five reasons new people leave our corps. January 27, 2015 by Captain Scott Strissel
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    From time to time, every church struggles with attracting and keeping new members. While it's not about numbers or filling pews in the church, a healthy church is a growing church. Jesus had a lot to say about making disciples. Needs have to be met. Souls have to be sought. A ministry niche has to be cultivated.

    What is your corps' niche? I don't mean a lure to pull people in. I mean what does it look like for us to follow Paul's instructions and become “all things to all people” (1 Corinthians 9:22)? How can we not only stop new people from leaving, but keep them coming back and getting involved in our ministries?

    Here are five reasons newcomers leave our corps after only a few visits. It's not an exhaustive list, but rather a primer for a complicated topic. How can we devise fresh approaches that welcome and retain new members?

    1. Felt Unwelcome
    It seems obvious and yet first-time visitors to our corps need to be shown friendliness. Generally, they don't want to stand up and be recognized as a “new visitor,” but they would like a few people to talk to them and show an interest in who they are. They want people to remember their names. No one should ever feel unwelcome in our buildings. After all, we are here to minister to the whosoever … right?

    2. Lack of Fellowship
    I love it when people linger and talk after the service. It's a sign that people care for one another, that there is real fellowship in the corps. Visitors can sense when there is division instead of unity. I'm not talking about some sort of “sixth sense” here; it's just obvious in certain types of body language that something is off about the fellowship … or lack thereof. New people want a place to fit in, a sense of belonging. They want to go out for coffee or lunch together following a service. But if division in the corps is causing a quick exit after the service, you can be sure new people will disappear very quickly, too.

    3. No Ministry Geared for Their Generation
    We serve many generations in our corps. We need to maintain a balance in how we minister. If you have 30 young adults in your congregation, there ought to be something specific to reach them at a deeper level during the week. If you have a primarily senior corps and only a handful of teens, make sure you have something for the seniors as well as the teens. When a newcomer visits your corps, is there a ministry that feeds them spiritually and a place for them to serve?

    4. Army Lingo Not Explained
    Sunday announcement: “Next week the DC will be here to install the YPSM. Don't forget about DYB coming up shortly in preparation for youth councils.” I understood what that was about and perhaps you did, too—but the new person in the back pew has no clue what we're talking about. Foreign terminology in a new place can be intimidating and can make a newcomer feel like an outsider. This doesn't mean we have to stop the announcements, but don't use Army lingo without explaining the terms.

    5. Members Fear New Visitors
    Some corps members do not like change, and new people are a form of change. They may complain that we need “new blood” in our corps and yet when that “new blood” walks through the door, they treat them with as much disdain as a new worship song. They might not even know they are acting this way. Some corps members are intimidated by new people—they may even feel they might lose power because the new person seems more energetic, charismatic or educated, and begin to show subtle aggression. The newcomer will sense hostility without understanding why. Change is hard, but how can we keep new people coming back if we're afraid of change—even for the good? Education needs to take place.

    Be sensitive to the needs of new people. We don't have to cater solely to them, but we ought to make our worship spaces available and friendly so that all are welcomed, the new and the not-so-new. Beware of possible hurdles new people might have to jump in order to “fit in.” Finding a new place to worship isn't easy, especially if this new person has never gone to church before. We are the body of Christ and as we extend his love to new people, may we display to them and each other genuine love, compassion and grace. May our fellowship be so sweet that we linger in each other's company. May we seek to minister to all people. Finally, may we be open to change and, with the grace of God, usher in new soldiers for this mighty work.

    Captain Scott Strissel lives in Brainerd, Minnesota. He is an active blogger and contributor for the purpose of encouraging and challenging the Salvation Army world. Read his blog at pastorsponderings.org.

    Comment

    On Monday, August 3, 2015, Julie said:

    Well I go to the SA in Manchester CT, the people not all but a few who wear the uniform can look right through you and not even acknowledge you with a greeting. I would love to go to a different church, but I guess its not on how many friendly people there are at this church, its a about worshiping GOD.

    On Friday, March 6, 2015, Yamilet Corea said:

    I love all the topics that you pointed.
    I would like make you more questions about this topic .
    thanks for your prompt answers.

    Blessing

    On Friday, February 13, 2015, Ketland Dyer said:

    I used to attend a corps in Hastings, UK. No matter how hard I tried to welcome newcomers to the corps, I was wasting my time. We had a small number of single ladies who firmly believed that children should be seen and not heard - so, any time a family with young children arrived, they would be told exactly how terribly behaved their children had been, how they weren't treating God's house with the respect it deserved, and heaven help us if any of the children went anywhere near the Mercy Seat!

    One elderly lady in particular, an ex-officer, was single-handedly responsible for driving three dozen visitors away over the course of a year. No matter how hard anyone tried to convince her to be nicer to visitors, the moment they walked in the door, she would start to glare at them. The band leader was no better - she would talk loudly to her friends, within earshot of any visitors, about how dreadful "those people" were.

    Most of the corps were friendly and inviting. But, the memory that stuck in all those visitors minds was one of a bitter, nasty person who very obviously did not want them to come back. So sad.

    By the time I left for a more friendly corps in the next town, they had shrunk from a corps of 50 to about 15 regular members. What I regret the most is that for a while, those people had me seeing their point of view, and I was starting to behave like them. It really is true that a few bad apples can ruin the whole barrel.

    On Thursday, February 5, 2015, Laura Johnson said:

    I am a salvation Army Missions Specialist (7yrs). I am the person that goes out into the streets to share the love of God through his word. And people often follow me to my corp ;however, my authority ends at the front door of the Corps. What happens after they come through the doors is out of my control. I believe while we are trying to change or way of doing things, we should be in prayer to surrender to the Holy Spirit to change our hearts daily, to make us fruitful for this generation. Because we are a army of imperfect soldiers with a desire to share Jesus Christ with a Dark World. I think the light has to shine brightly in our hearts, and then or Corps before we can be a light house for the lost. The gentlemen that went through the situation of being isolated by the church members, praise God that is your ministry for this generation, to make sure no other man goes through that, because it touched your heart.(I am going to make sure I am sensitive to the males in the future, thank you for sharing) Now, God can take the pain you endured to reach the heart of others. We forget that we are soldiers, and there are always going to be casualties in war. The American Army can be in a period of peace, but The Salvation Army will fight to hold on to our victory until Jesus returns. Amen

    On Thursday, January 29, 2015, av said:

    Total agreement regarding divorce. An ex officer, local officer and Salvationist since birth. When my marriage broke down through no fault of myself my ex fell for a male. It took me 30 years to go back into that Hall. I am now back and have been made really welcome. BUT when I needed contact with others the SA had launched a singles group nationally. They barred me because I was divorced. Met and married an outsider. Felt let down by SA.

    On Thursday, January 29, 2015, LT.FRANCIS MWASHI said:

    1.Need for ushers-
    there is need for ushers who can easily identify visitors in our corps during services.There main responsibility being welcoming visitors and taking there contacts for follow up.
    2.After church sessions where we can easily recognise the newcomers or the needs of our members.
    3.Calling the newcomers during weekdays and appreciating their coming.
    1. I also recommend a suggestion box where we can easily get first hand information from people.
    In kenya west we count ourself best in numbers because we have wards, which easily identifies new people and visit them during the week and again reaching peoples' needs is easy due to small groups
    AM LT MWASHI FRANCIS FROM KENYA WEST TERRITORY

    On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Deryck Robertson said:

    I have visited churches and not been welcomed and I have also seen it overdone. There has to be a middle ground somewhere. Visitors should also feel like they can initiate a conversation. Please come up to me and ask about my corps. I'd be glad to chat with you.

    On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, R Quayle said:

    thank you so much for this- my husband was raised in the army but a newcomer to the American church and I was just plain new. I did join as a soldier and both of us were employed in our local division at separate corps. We both ending up leaving both as employees and the church. We still profess the faith abd try our best to live as soldiers but there was deep division in the church at the time which has since moved out of the area. I deeply miss the church and attend a local Catholic Church instead and am active in their services. It's odd to me, and I love my Catholic brothers and sisters but I would rather go back to the Corps. I did once go to my husbands home citadel in the UK and found it to be a totally different atmosphere and could finally see what he meant by it being the way the army is supposed to be. Hopefully change is coming soon...

    On Wednesday, January 28, 2015, Mutinta said:

    I once went to a corps in Johannesburg,no one said hi and that was my exit.

    On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, MUISYO FRANCIS said:

    Hello Officer
    This is very guiding..very true that a corps by its spiritual and population growth.
    Thank you for expounding.
    from kawethei cirps kangundo division.machakis county.kenya east territory.
    muisyo francis..

    On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, Linda Thompson said:

    I agree with Drummer Dude re. Divorce. When my marriage broke down I went back to the corps where I had served for 34 years and also been a local officer only to feel most unwelcome by the majority of the folks, there the odd few who genuinly welcomed me and although I had gone to the mercy seat absolutely heartbroken, not one person asked for my address, although I was living on that district.
    So after 60 years of SA service, I am now a Methodist where I was welcomed with open arms and accepted just as I am. Whosoever, not in my experience.

    On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, CJ said:

    I've been a Salvationist for over 45 years and during that time have experienced soldiership at six diverse corps. My current corps of over 20 years is great at welcoming and connecting with visitors and new folk. Admittedly there are cliques but I see and am able to be part of sharing an inviting and hospitable ministry. Even more encouraging is seeing the way I see older corps folk mentoring our youth in how to be welcoming, and watching the young folk enjoy warmly greeting everyone each week is a blessing. So it came as a shock to attend a sizeable corps in another territory, where people were being friendly to those they knew, but as a visitor, only two people said 'hello'. No effort was made to establish my name, where I was from or why I was present. The 10 minutes before the service was rather awkward and I kept thinking, "This would so not happen in my home corps."
    Fortunately during the meeting there was a time for testimony and I was able to bring fellow greetings from my corps and declare God's grace. That was all it took, after the service I was inundated with genuine expressions of Christian welcome. So what made the difference? I doubt that it was, that I had established my army credentials. I put it down to the fact that the culture of the corps allowed limited space for folk to initiate conversation. They weren't unfriendly but just unaccustomed to how to start those conversations.
    It's not hard folk, simply when new folk arrive use language like "Welcome to worship/church. Thank you for coming," Introduce yourself and then allow them to dialogue. It works wonders.

    On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, Drummer Dude said:

    I've been a member of TSA all my life (46 years). I would add a #6 to this article: We don't know how to deal with divorce. Maybe this is just my own situation, but when my wife and I separated and ultimately divorced this past year, my corps family surrounded her with love, support and prayer. I, on the other hand, found myself all alone in a corps that I actually brought my ex-wife into, and here I am at the 'self-service island.' This is how it has been for about 3 years now and I don't see things changing for me any time soon.

    I belong to one of the largest corps in the USA Central Territory, and come from a well-known family. I feel like I am a blight to everyone, so I just keep my head down and do my job as a bandsman in my corps band, hear a message, then go straight home. I really wish that we did a better job surrounding everyone involved in a broken home--not just one person over another.

    On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, david said:

    i wasnt welcome be the church if you need to know why inbox me

    On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, Dawn Ferguson-Little said:

    I go to Enniskillen Salvation Army and I just love it. With my Husband. Our Church is not that big but full of love. Every one is so kind loving and caring. I can see were you are coming with what you write. . Jesus loved everyone no matter who they were despite their age our skin colour. The thing that saddness me is people are quick to judge people cause of their looks or skin colour or what back round they come from. Which can be so so sad. I love that song Jesus loves the little Children of the world red and yellow black and white all are pressious in his sight. I change it to Jesus loves all the people of the world red and yellow black and white all our pressious in his sight. We should all live like that. That is what I love about the Salvation Army they just love all people no matter what back round colour race they come from. They sum up this song perfectly. Plus show Jesus as Christian to people who come into our Churches especially if not saved and make them fell welcome loved and cared for. As we have world out there with alot of hurting people who need Jesus and they when some them do go to Church don't stay because I find they would say they find Chruch very cold and the people in very unfriendly and the services very boarding plus they are bit to long. So we have to show them as Christian Gods love in the Chruch and do what Jesus would do be friendly caring loving and kind to them. .

    On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, Donna Kapalka said:

    I have been a member of the Salvation Army for over 9 yrs. There are a few people who talk to me and know my name, all the pastors have been great and yet I still feel very lonely when I go to church, I always sit alone, when there are functions on I am always sitting by myself, I just don't feel welcome.

    On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, karen dipple said:

    I've got to say, i have been attending the SA now for a few months and find the church very warm and welcoming, although every church comes with its difficulties! But very glad to have made the move.

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