Thursday, November 15, 2007

New-Comer Fellowship

New-Comer fellowships or Dinners are events that allow visitors or new attendees to get to know your pastor and your staff better. They are important because they help connect people to other individuals and to leadership. They are generally are in more intimate settings. There are plenty of options when planning a New-Comer Dinner for your church.

How Often?

This depends on the size and type of church you have. If you are in a larger church or have a lot of visitors you need to have them as often as you can. A lot of people slip through the cracks. It’s important to make them feel welcome and a part of your group. Some churches have them once a month. You also could consider once a quarter or once every other month.

What type?
Again, this depends on your church and basically your gifts. We pastored a small church for a few years where it was easier to host small groups in our home. That is a great option for church plants or even small groups. Dinners are always the best option….everybody likes a free meal. Of course, you can always just serve coffee and dessert. Though I prefer appetizers and snacks to solely dessert. If you have staff assign everyone a appetizer, salad, etc. to bring. I’ve given you some menu ideas on down.

The Invitation
Be sure you make announcements and place it in your bulletin. There might be somebody you miss by just a letter or email invitation only. Plus, open it up to newer visitors. Maybe a family is just visiting your church, but wants to learn more about the church. Make it an open invitation. Call, email, send a card, announce it, stick it in the bulletin and make a flyer to hang on your bulletin boards. You’ll get plenty of attention. Most importantly, just ask somebody. We were “pew sitters” during a difficult time in our lives. We would hear of church events and think “that sounds like fun,” but felt so disconnected that we didn’t make the effort. It would have made a big difference for someone to come to us and say, “please would you…” I never knew how much that makes a difference until I was outside of the loop looking in.
The Decor
I could go on and on about this, but make sure you make your event look warm and inviting. Nothing too fancy. You might consider decorating seasonally. For spring you could garden themed table decorations (planters, small clean garden tools, pretty garden gloves & flowers). If it is summertime consider using beach decorations (inflatables, beach towels, sunglasses, sand toys). For fall use scarecrows, pumpkins and mums. In winter decorate with snowmen or snowflakes. If you wish to keep it really simple purchase or make decorations that you can use over and over again. I had some really pretty wooden birdhouses I had purchased on year (Hobby Lobby half-price) for a Home Missions convention. I just added some greenery and we had very cute tables. (For the Home Missions convention I added small American flags)

All About Me
Make out a fun and non-threatening form for people to fill out at your event. You might make this part of your icebreaker game time. It will give people a chance to let you know a little bit more about themselves. Include a section for prayer needs and any area of interest to get involved in. Don’t make it complicated. People don’t want to feel like they are signing away their first born or anything.

Here is a link for some interesting questions to ask.

The Games
You need an ice breaker or two to lighten the mood. Keep in mind that these are visitors and might not be comfortable trying to pass an orange along under their chin. Here are a few sites for ice breakers. - she also has a link at the bottom of the page for other sites

The Food
You should do the best you can. Don’t do potluck. This is an evening just for your guests. They don’t need to stress out about what to bring. If you have a group in your church that does the cooking for functions let them assist you. If you chose to do dessert have your staff bring a dessert or two a piece. Just keep this in mind. You are going to have some folks with health issues. I am diabetic. I cringe every time I am invited to a dessert party. I either don’t get to eat or I spend the night in a sugar coma. I like the snack party idea better if you are not going to serve dinner. Here are some of my favorite menus for a New-Comer Dinner. I have recipes or tips under my recipe label.

Lasagna (save your Spaghetti recipe for an all church event – I have a recipes for both on this site!)
Garlic Bread

Beef Brisket
Smashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Hot Rolls

Chicken Cordon Bleu
Smashed Potatoes or Baked Potatoes

The Goodies
Make sure everyone goes home with something. You can either put together a goodie bag or make your own favors. There are plenty of printable templates for candy bar wrappers, etc. Just add your church information.
Here are a list of items you might consider for your goodie bags.

Samples of hand lotion, note pads, candy, bookmarks, calendars, pens, magnets, small devotionals, gum

Here are a few links for printable favors or other favor ideas. - love her has survival kit ideas. Really cute!

Door Prizes
Gift certificates from local restaurants, car washes, retail stores, gas stations Once again Julia has some wonderful tips and ideas for door prizes.

The Fellowship
It is so important for your guests to feel comfortable. If you have staff, mix them up in between the guests. If it is just you and your family consider having another church family involved. Encourage your helpers to be friendly and engaging.

Here is a sample event schedule

Opening Prayer
Ice Breakers
Short Introduction to church, staff, ministries
Open Forum (answer any questions)
Door Prize Giveaway
Closing Prayer

The Follow-Up
Be sure to send a thank-you card to all your guests. If possible, write out a hand-written note. Though for many people now emails are perfectly expectable. Follow-up with any prayer requests, volunteer services, etc. that they might have indicated on their All About Me form.

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