17 minutes. That’s all. Studies have shown that people decide whether they are going to make a return visit to a church within the first 17 minutes of ever arriving.
Each year, many visitors pass through the doors of Uptown Church asking themselves if this is a place they belong? From my perspective, two of the busiest times for new visitors are August and January. Of those two I might say August is even more important because people fall into rhythms which set the tone for the next 9 months. I love welcoming new people and connecting with people that have been at Uptown for years. The only problem is that I am in Philadelphia for the next two weeks taking classes at Westminster Seminary, so, could you help a pastor out? Here’s what I need you to do…
- Talk to people you don’t know.
-Help people become known, loved and included…Yep…do it. I have said this before but I will say it again, just lead with: “I am not sure if we have met yet, I am ____. How long have you been going to Uptown?”
- Talk to people you should know.
-If you feel like you should know someone’s name but you don’t you are likely hesitant to go talk to that person. Maybe you have sat by them for weeks but never talked, maybe you have asked their name 5x and still can’t remember. Yeah, it can be awkward, but can being awkward glorify God? Absolutely! If you feel like you should go talk to someone then do it…If all else fails just start with I know I should know your name by now, or Dave says I should talk to you…
- Help people connect with one another.
-Connect the dots. Use what you know about your friends at Uptown and link someone new to someone who has been here a while. Think: Parts of town. Similar jobs, hobbies, hometowns. college teams… “You just moved from Nashville, you need to meet____. You are living in the South End, let me introduce you to____.”
- Get together…
-Mark something on your calendar and then ask God who He wants you to connect with. Have someone over for dinner. Grab coffee during the week. Invite someone to a park. …It’s not about what you do, it’s about doing something together. Quantity time breeds quality time.
- Change your seat up, or at least make the rounds.
-It is often human nature to stake your claim, to set and seek routine. Do you have a seat or a spot that you sit? If you usually sit downstairs have you ever ventured into the balcony? Same goes for you balcony sitter. Changing your seat will give you a new perspective on worship and likely help you interact with some new people. Give it a try.
- Leverage your children.
-That doesn’t sound right, but hear me out…Yes, your kids do need to get picked up, abandoning them for 45 mins is not an option….But is that an excuse? Send one parent to grab the kids and the other can use that time to connect. Or if you are the parent heading to fetch a child, use that time to find people doing the same thing and strike up a conversation, say, what if we got the kids together this week, want to do pizza in the park on Friday?
Uptown needs to be a unified church where people feel welcomed and encouraged. What are you going to do to help us get there? Use those first 17 minutes to connect, but don’t stop there. The time after church, standing in the hall during the pastoral prayer. People that are new need to connect, people that have been here for years might need to reconnect. I hate that I won’t be there in this critical time, but the truth is to do this well we all need to be on board. So…could you help a pastor out? Let’s step up our game and make connections.
Author: Rev. Dave Kulp