Invitation & Welcome: Landmarks
Landmarks aims to create a culture of invitation and welcome in every church in our Diocese; providing seasonal bridges into church
Lots of people still choose to come to Church at particular times of the year or at special times of their lives. Bob Jackson’s estimate is that up to a third of British people get to church for one occasion or another each year. “Landmarks” is our initiative to encourage parishes to use existing bridges to help people find their way back to Church – and, in time, to God Himself. People don’t make the leap all at once. For almost everyone, it’s a journey.
Therefore, the more footprints we can offer them, the better. A lot of our Parishes do “Back to Church Sunday” extremely well – but at the rate of only once per year people may never make the journey to faith; and if they miss a year, it will be like starting all over again! But it doesn’t have to be like that.
Consider the landmarks that punctuate our year – almost every month we could, with some imagination and initiative, run a successful “special event” drawing in people who don’t ordinarily count themselves as regular churchgoers.
Calender ideas ...
|January: New Year||Throw a party for people not going anywhere else (lots of people spend New Year alone).|
|February: Valentine’s Day||Renewal of Vows for long-married, or a celebration special for the recently-married in our church?|
|March: Mothering Sunday||Already a winner!|
|March-April: Holy Week/Easter||You have to work hard to mess this one up! But perhaps we can make more creative use of this festival?|
|June: Father’s Day||An increasingly important secular “festival”, so let’s claim some of the action. We do have important things to share about fatherhood, and a Heavenly Father. Arrange a service that Dads will relate to.|
|September: Back to Church Sunday||We send out materials on request each year for publicity and service ideas. Ask us for help.|
|September / October: Harvest||If you find ploughing and reaping too rural, there’s always environmental stuff and climate change to tackle.|
|October / November: All Souls / All Saints||Time-honoured and pre-Christian which suggests a deep-rooted instinct. Let’s reclaim it from the new paganism. Some kind of remembering and celebrating those we love, but see no more, can offer real help to people who have nowhere else to put their grief.|
|November: Remembrance Day||We are tragically once again a nation at war. Wootton Bassett reminds us of this constantly. Remembrance rings bells with lots of people, not just World War Veterans.|
|December: Christmas||Purists may still refuse to sing carols until Christmas Day itself. OK, it’s technically correct, but as far as the non-churchgoing world is concerned, the season is almost over by the time Christmas Day comes. Use the two Sundays running up to Christmas in creative ways, Christingles, Nativity Services, etc, and use every way you can to invite and publicise them.|
We would like to:
- Encourage every church to have regular invitation events throughout the year
- Help every church have a well thought through welcome strategy
- Encourage every church to have regular exploration groups so that new people to church can discuss with others what the Christian faith means to them
- Create a platform for churches to share their good ideas for invitation and welcome
Try the “Experience Festivals" Materials
The Diocese of Gloucester has produced some excellent materials which include Experience Easter, Pentecost, Harvest and Christmas. They offer ideas for taking children and adults on a walk-through of the story by setting up displays and hands-on activities in your church building, to explain and meditate on these landmark festivals. Let’s keep the faith-story alive. Work well ahead on this and you will probably find that your local primary schools will be very eager to make use of your event as part of their R.S. Curriculum.
Find out more about Bob Jackson's newly published mini-course "Everybody Welcome". So much more than just training for "Welcomers" - it's about creating a whole culture of being welcoming, friendly, accessible and attractive as parishes. If he is right in saying that only one in ten visitors to church ever return, it must be worth having a go!
”What ‘Landmarks’ is really saying is that there is still a very significant constituency out there who can be reached effectively through ‘Inherited Church’, if we are imaginative and welcoming.” (Steve Wilcockson, Parish Mission Development Officer)