Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Delivering Welcome Bags

Last night I delivered welcome bags to people who have recently moved into new residences in Blaine & Lino Lakes. This is a new ministry that we developed in 2011 at Chain of Lakes as part of our outreach focus.

The concept is easy to understand. We are like the old Welcome Wagon. We asked local businesses for coupons that we can give to new people. We add information from Chain of Lakes. We put all the information into a blue canvass bag that has the Chain of Lakes logo printed on it.

The purpose of the ministry is two-fold. One is to welcome people who have recently moved into our geographical area. Over time we might put in information from the local cities and school districts. We had a brief conversation with a rep from the local YMCA about putting one of their program guides into the bag. Sharing this information is one way that our congregation can live into our Core Value of Hospitality. We understand this to mean that “we will go out of our way to welcome people as Jesus welcomed them, with an open heart and open arms.”

The second purpose is to share information about Chain of Lakes Church. When people move into a new area they ultimately will make a decision about attending a church. During that decision-making time, we have an opportunity to share information about our congregation. Hopefully someone will come to worship after receiving a welcome bag.

We’ve gotten the names of new residences from the city of Lino Lakes and the Star Tribune Sunday real estate section. One man from Chain of Lakes takes this information and makes a map of where the residence is located. Two lovely women then stuff the bags and put them out for people from Chain of Lakes to distribute.

I decided that I want to distribute five welcome bags each week this summer. I see this as a way to share the importance of this ministry to the rest of our congregation.

Last night was the third time I’ve gone out. The first week no one was home; last week I distributed five bags to people who were home.

It was raining last night, so I felt a bit sheepish about delivering bags. I wrote about my hesitancy on my Facebook page. A long-time friend encouraged me to get out there. So I did. I first delivered two coffee mugs to guests who visited for the first-time this past Sunday. I wrote about our coffee mug ministry in a blog on February 4, 2010.

After delivering the bags I distributed welcome bags. I went to four homes—two people were home. I distributed two bags. I decided not to drop off the bags unless the people are home.

When the person comes to the door, I share that I am with the welcome wagon. I say that I discovered that the person is new to the area and want to welcome them. I give them the bag and say that we want to share coupons from area businesses. I tell them that I’m with Chain of Lakes Church—a new Presbyterian church. The person will usually say thank you or something else. At some point I’ll ask the person when they moved. If the person seems interested in having a conversation I might ask him or her if they have connected to a church. I’ll encourage the person to come to worship at Chain of Lakes and then leave. Most of the conversations take less than three minutes. I have yet to have a negative experience in talking to a person

I make a record of every conversation and share it with the people who are coordinating the ministry. Our goal is to distribute fifty welcome bags each month.

I have no idea if we will receive new guests in worship from this ministry. But I think this ministry is worth a try. Please pray for this new welcome bag ministry at Chain of Lakes. Pray that we can share hospitality with people and that people might “dip their toe in the water” at a worship service at Chain of Lakes Church.

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