September designated as 'welcome your neighbors' month
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) Won't 'cha be my neighbor?
Folks at Asbury United Methodist Church, Rochester, N.Y., are being downright neighborly - they are inviting 1,200 new residents in their community to a picnic.
Around the country, United Methodist churches are collaborating with National Neighborhood Day to make Sept. 12 a day of getting to know and welcoming neighbors into the church.
National Neighborhood Day, an initiative to help communities become better acquainted, coincides with Open House Month for the United Methodist Church.
"It is life-giving to find a place where you feel you belong," said the Rev. Robin Olson, pastor at the church. The church sent out postcards to all the people who have moved into their community since last September. "Together in Ministry" is the theme for a church picnic on Sept. 12.
Igniting Ministry, the television and welcoming ministry of the United Methodist Church, coordinated by United Methodist Communications, works with the bishops in each annual conference to encourage congregations to host special events, worship festivals or make other efforts to welcome the community during the month of September.
"Because this celebration is right in the middle of the United Methodist Church's Open House Month, it's another way to show our 'open hearts, open minds, open doors' to the community," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive for United Methodist Communications.
Since 2001, the United Methodist Church has been encouraging members to embrace September as Open House Month, a time to reach out to their communities.
"It is essential to welcome people into the church in a time when so many have preconceived ideas about church which aren't always positive," Olson said. "You have to be open to new people and not just ask them to join you but be willing to join them on their spiritual journey."
Olson said the church is working on an attitude of welcome throughout their various ministries. They are planning to feature a "wall of welcome" that will honor people who have been welcoming - in large or small ways - to someone entering the church. Churches can be more welcoming by:
Having members invite their friends, relatives, associates and neighbors to worship and special activities during September.
Planning worship services to reach out to others in the community. Consider structuring services around issues and themes important to the community, such as honoring volunteers and servants in the community (police officers, hospital workers, firefighters, little league coaches, etc.) with special Labor Day observances.
Participating in fall fairs, carnivals and community activities.
Promoting the church's outreach activities, introducing new ones and providing newcomers with opportunities to get involved. Churches can be good neighbors by:
Hosting a picnic on the church lawn or working with your local neighborhood association to host a block party. Offer free food and fun and get to know the people in your neighborhood in an inviting and welcoming way.
Having the youth group go door-to-door in the neighborhood, doing a silly scavenger hunt (collect common household items such as clothes dryer lint, paper towel rolls, old newspapers, etc.). They can leave behind an invitation to church and say that it's Neighborhood Day so they're out getting to know the church's neighbors - a fun and nonthreatening way to interact with neighbors nearby.
Doing a neighborhood improvement or "clean-up" day in the blocks around the church. Maybe someplace in the neighborhood could use a little sprucing up or an elderly neighbor needs some "handyman" chores done. Invite all the neighbors to participate in making the neighborhood a better place.
For more information and ideas about getting involved in National Neighborhood Day, visit www.neighborhoodday.org. Check out www.IgnitingMinistry.org for more Open House Month ideas.