Invite your neighbors ?Home for Christmas?

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article reprinted from the United Methodist Connection
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September 4, 2002


VOL. 13, NO. 17







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Invite your neighbors Home for Christmas

Only 112 days to Christmas. As we move from the heat of the summer into fall, you may not yet be thinking about Christmas, but a number of churches in the Baltimore-Washington Conference are getting ready to invite and welcome unchurched families to their Home for Christmas, Christmas Eve worship services.

Home for Christmas is a step-by-step plan designed to help local churches invite and welcome people within their communities who are not currently attending any church.

The conference Board of Evangelization is supporting this ministry with resources: a Home for Christmas Workbook with a step-by-step plan, including sample letters and an order of worship; radio spots; newspaper ads; and thousands of Christmas cards for mailing to unchurched friends and acquaintances.

The premise is simple: If you invite people who usually dont attend church to Christmas Eve worship they are likely to come.

The 2001 Home for Christmas pilot project confirmed this idea. Nine churches in our conference experienced an average attendance increase of 59 percent.

Home for Christmas capitalizes on the simple truth that people who arent part of a faith community are more willing to visit a church for the first time on Christmas Eve than at other times of the year. They are looking for a religious experience at Christmas. They are primed to accept an invitation to find that experience in our congregations.

The point of Home for Christmas is more than just numbers. It is not about increasing attendance; it is about making disciples for Jesus Christ. The first-time worship experience is often the most difficult of all steps leading toward commitment to Jesus Christ.

Studies show that 70 to 90 percent of new members in every congregation attend the first time because someone invited them.

Several different methods are used to inspire church members to invite unchurched friends and family to Christmas Eve worship.

Any change in an individuals behavior response usually happens because of a change in stimulus from outside that individual, said the Rev. Herb Miller, author of the gbwc_superuserelines portion of the workbook. In other words, church members who have not been in the habit of inviting their acquaintances to church begin inviting people when church leaders do something different provide different stimulus than they have in the past.

As we gather this year to sing beautiful songs of Christmas and hear again the story of the angels visit with the shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night, let us take the opportunity to share this good news with others.

With a special invitation to our unchurched acquaintances, well feel the excitement of that first Christmas night. As we join in the singing of Silent Night, we share the light of Gods promise in the Christ Child. This is at the heart of Home for Christmas, one person inviting another person to share in the experience of God with us.

The Rev. William Brown, pastor of Epworth UMC in Cockeysville, is vice chairman of the conference Board of Evangelization.

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