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In its 7th year and with about 40 adult members, a small congregation in the South realized it was stuck—its membership hadn’t increased in 3 years. True, a few new folks joined each year, but the new folks only replaced those who had moved or left for other reasons.
“We need to do something!” exclaimed a relatively new member who had joined the Membership Committee and looked at the statistics. “Probably we need to be intentional about a lot of things to change our pattern—but couldn’t we start with simple Southern hospitality? We should know how to do that!”
What Pat Miller did in Oxford, MS, soon began to make a difference. She had a very specific way of translating “Southern hospitality” into guidelines for making her congregation friendly and welcoming.
Here are some of the guidelines Pat developed for welcoming newcomers:
Pointing out these guidelines, Oxford’s congregation president, Gail Stratton, called on board members to be part of the welcoming effort, reminding them how it can feel to be in a whole new group for the first time and suggesting that welcoming newcomers should be a part of their leadership charge.
Three years after Pat Miller chose to be truly intentional about being welcoming to newcomers, her congregation had increased its membership by nearly fifty percent and the good energy in the congregation promises to keep it growing.
Audio Essay Series: Volume 3: Small Congregations, Track 7 (MP3, 3:52 minutes)
Author: Eunice Benton, Executive Director for the Mid‐South District
Date of Release: February 2009
This Audio Essay series was created by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, for the purpose of supporting its valued lay leaders. Copying and sharing these essay texts, downloadable audio ﬁles, and the companion Lay Leader Drive Time Essays compact disc is welcomed and encouraged.
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Last updated on Wednesday, September 24, 2014.
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