Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Presbyterian Mugging

One issue that every congregation eventually confronts is how to respond to first-time visitors. Research shows that timely follow-up makes a difference in whether people will attend worship a second time. When I served in Plainview I discovered through trial and error that some sort of follow-up had to be made before the next worship service. If we followed up with a first-time visitor after a worship service took place, we were shooting ourselves in the foot. I found that it was better not to follow-up then to follow up after the next worship service.

When I served at Community Presbyterian Church in Plainview, we tried all sorts of follow-up.

We tried mailing letters, but over time found that this was too impersonal.

We tried having lay people bake some bread and bring it unannounced to the door of the family. This idea worked well, but over time it was too hard to coordinate getting the bread made and dropping the bread off at someone’s home. Too often it was too much for one person to do during the week and too difficult to coordinate one person making the bread and another person dropping it off. Believe me it sounds strange that such simple tasks are too hard to coordinate, but that was my experience.

Eventually we came up with the idea of sharing a coffee mug with a person. We got this idea from Adam Hamilton, pastor of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City. As he developed his new church, he would drop off a coffee mug with every first-time visitor. In Plainview we had a very faithful woman who would drop off the coffee mug. Over time we called this a “Presbyterian mugging.”

The idea is simple. Show up unannounced at the person’s door. Choose a time when the person is most likely home. If the person comes to the door, share the coffee mug. Share with the person that we were very glad that the person came to worship, ask the person if he or she had any questions, and then encourage the person to attend worship the following Sunday.

If the person isn’t home, I write a note and put it in the mug and then call the person the next day to share that I put a mug at their doorstep.

Of course we have to get the address of the person in worship. At Chain of Lakes we put a Communications Card into every bulletin. During the announcement time in worship we ask people to get the Communication Card out of the bulletin and to fill it out.

I decided that when I came to Chain of Lakes that I would deliver the mugs myself. This past weekend we had eight new families come to worship, so one of my goals of the week is to deliver eight mugs. I delivered four mugs last night and as soon as I finish this blog will deliver the other four mugs.

My experience last night was interesting. None of the people were taken aback that I was at their door unannounced. Every person knew me because they had seen me lead worship this past Sunday. Every one of them was appreciative that I would come on a cold, February night to deliver a coffee mug. I learned something about every person when I delivered a mug. Too often evangelism is difficult because we know so little about the person. We don’t know why the person came to worship, or the person’s background, or the level of the person’s interest. Last night I was able to fill in some blanks about the four people to whom I gave a coffee mug.

I resisted going inside to talk to the people. If a person comes to worship a third time, then I will visit the person. Last night one person told me that it was an African custom to offer hospitality to a visitor, so if I didn’t come inside I was refusing hospitality. I couldn’t refuse that offer. So we visited for about a half hour. I don’t know if the family will come to worship this Sunday, but I do know that I enjoyed the visit.


DHK said...

Hi: I just read your BLOG and found the item about the "Mugging" to be fantastic. I hope you don't mind but I want to share this with some folks at my church (United Church of Cohoes (New York))

Thank you so much,
Dan Knight
Waterford, NY

Neal Lloyd said...

First Church tried a lot of things too. The bread thing ran into the same problems. I know for a time they were delivering Panera gift certificates good for a loaf. Don't know if they still do that or not.

Chainoflakesncd said...

Dan, Certainly you can share this idea with the folks at United Church of Cohoes. I got the idea from Adam Hamilton from Church of the Resurrection.

Having the pastor deliver the mugs obviously gives this a different dynamic. The people I talked to often give me a look that shares, "wow, you are delivering me a mug?” They are amazed that a pastor would do that. Unfortunately I think that reveals something about us pastors!"

Reformed Catholic said...

FWIW ... Ashburn Presbyterian Church in Ashburn VA has been doing 'mugging' since 1998 or so. It is part of the Evangelism ministry, and is done by church members.

It has been very effective at that church since it began.