Remember! September is
Open House Month

It was late summer 1977 when I discovered what it was like to attend a church as a total stranger. My family and I had just moved to Atlanta so that I could attend seminary. We decided to check out some of the local churches, but we were met with disappointment after disappointment.

In many of the churches not one person - not even the pastor - spoke to us. In some churches our presence was acknowledged, but no one spoke to us, shook our hands, or even invited us back.

Finally, one of my fellow seminarians invited us to his church. It was a very small congregation with about 45 in attendance, yet they were so friendly and really appreciated our visit. The pastor came by to visit, and we were invited out to dinner by a couple that would take us under their wings. Needless to say, we later joined that church.

It may seem ludicrous for United Methodist Communications to urge us to be trained on how to welcome visitors - on how to be warm and inviting to people who visit our churches during Open House Month or any other month. United Methodist Communications also seeks to teach us to invite others to church, to be prepared when we come face to face with potential visitors. I know that most of us experience our churches as friendly congregations, but that's because we've already made many church friends who greet us and include us in church activities.

If you wish to help your church fulfill the Great Commission - to make disciples of Jesus - then you may want to learn more about United Methodist Communication's Igniting Ministry program. (Visit or call 1-877-281-6536 for information.) Many Holston congregations have already benefited from Igniting Ministry grants, training, and other resources. I hope you will avail yourself of the help they can provide.

If you have come to know me, you know that one of my driving passions is to see our churches experience growth, good health, and vitality. I believe that Igniting Ministry is a Godgiven tool that will help us to achieve these goals.

So let's begin now, in July, to spruce up our buildings and attitudes, so the people the Lord sends to us will instantly know they've found a home.


Bishop James Swanson
Resident Bishop

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