From the Pastor 12/9/18:
Can we see Christmas at St. Francis of Assisi parish this year as a unique opportunity to reach out to people who wouldn’t normally attend church. The difference between a one-time visitor and a two-time visitor often comes down to how well your church prepared beforehand. Jayson D. Bradley in his ebook "HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR BEST CHRISTMAS YET" gives insight on how a church can succeed at Christmas.
Jayson challenges all members to Invite, invite, invite. Research shows that a personal invitation from a friend or family member results in 63 – 67% saying yes. Who do you know that you would like to invite to church on Christmas? As we set our Christmas plans, I encourage you to include a Mass time for the family. Might it not just be 4:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve to "get it over with”. Perhaps there is better time when a good meal has been had or Christmas morning in new Christmas clothes.
I know that many of us have more than one Christmas celebration. So for example, if you are planning a party, the weekend after Christmas, Holy Family Sunday, include weekend Mass in the plans and invite, invite, invite. Again, your personal invitation is the action in opening up others to church.
It’s all about the hospitality, Jayson goes on to talk about it in his book. He invites us to see our church’s hospitality as the doorway to discipleship and all members as greeters. Every one of us is in charge of helping our visitors feel welcome and comfortable. One nondenominational church set a goal to have every person greeted on the way into church five times, and then to be greeted again on the way out three times. This means starting in the parking lot, greeting the person parking next to you, or talking as you walk the block(s) to church. Don't forget to greet the youth home from college and the children as well. The challenge is to greet as many people as you can on the way in the church door. Perhaps we can have greeters opening not only the outside doors but also the inside church doors.
Once in the pew acknowledge those around you. This doesn't need to be a big loud conversation, perhaps just a nod or a whispered "Merry Christmas". Also move over so that the end of the pew is open, so others feel welcome to join you. Then plan to engage those around you more after Mass. When the closing song is done, who will you turn to in the pew and greet, might you simply ask "How is your Christmas going? Did you get anything fun for Christmas? Wasn't that homily _______?" Bradley states that it is of the utmost importance that a culture of hospitality is ingrained in a congregation, and it starts by communicating that, when it comes to creating a friendly, loving environment, everyone makes a difference.
So let us set our Christmas plans, purposefully, incorporating Christmas Mass, inviting others to church, and being a part of the hospitality ministry. You are welcome to sign up to be one of our greeters. I ask all to be about hospitality this Christmas, inviting and greeting all our regulars and guests. In the meantime keep living Advent.