Getting Acquainted With the New Church

How to get acquainted with a new congregation.

MRS. LEONARD C. LEE, Minister's Wife, Ohio Conference

We are a part of the great Advent Movement. The workers find it literally true. Because of being frequently moved, many ministers and their wives often find themselves faced with the problem of get­ting acquainted with a new congregation. This means repeated calling in the homes, for many times there are situations that make the first call unsatisfactory. It often takes a long time to establish the desired relationship between all the families of the church and the pastor's family.

My husband and I have devised and used a plan that we find works very well to bridge this gap. There are two underlying principles. One is that people who eat together always feel better acquainted, and the other is that people love to get into their minister's home and see how he lives. Acting on these principles, we decided to try having Sabbath school class par­ties in our home. Of course, it is obvious this would not work in a very large church. We have used it in a church with a membership of five hundred, and in many smaller ones.

Working with the superintendent, we explain that we want to entertain all the adult members of the church in our home, and that since the Sabbath school has them already divided into groups, we will have them come by classes. And as our living quarters are not too large, we will ask that no children be brought along. This gives the adults one evening by themselves. We ask the superintendent to announce the plan to the Sabbath school, telling them that these are to be covered-dish dinners and that we will provide the entree and the salad.

He finds out which class can come the follow­ing week, and the members get together at some time other than the Sabbath to plan the rest of the meal. They also decide which of the nights we have open will be most convenient for them, and also the time. Usually the hour is six-thirty. Sometimes husband and wife are in separate classes, but they are invited to come together. Also they are encouraged to bring the husband or wife that is not a member of the church. The officers are invited to attend any or all of these parties, and the heads of divisions and teachers in children's departments are in­vited to come at any time they find it con­venient. In this way all of the adult members can find a time to attend.

The teacher consults with the class about the menu, aside from the part we furnish. People who work are asked to bring things that can easily be bought, such as butter, buns, olives, celery, et cetera, while housewives can bring the things that require cooking.

If we think the group is likely to stay quite late, we also ask each person to bring along a copy of a favorite poem as an entrance require­ment. These will be read later in the evening with a background of soft music, as part of the program.

The preparation in our home is to provide ample seating space and adequate space for the food that is brought. Folding chairs can usually be borrowed from the church. We have made a place for the food by putting a long board across boxes, or taking a door off the hinges and putting it on boxes, and even using the ironing board. Any of these when covered with a nice cloth serves the purpose well. Bor­rowed card tables help solve the seating prob­lem. These can be put in the parlor, or even in a bedroom if space is limited. Usually we have to use three or four card tables besides our dining-room table.

We endeavor to make everything look its very best. We use our prettiest tablecloths. Every table must have some sort of bouquet. We do not use paper plates or cups. We are en­deavoring to do something special for these honored guests. This doesn't need to be ex­pensive. By shopping carefully in the dime stores we have been able to buy seconds of good plates for nineteen cents each. Pretty glasses are also inexpensive. We usually have to ask someone who is coming to the party to bring along some silver. We have also accumu­lated a supply of lace tableclothes, which are much easier to launder than linen.

Since the meal is served buffet style, the real plates are much easier to handle than paper ones, and look much better. The napkins, silver, and glasses are all on the tables. When everyone has arrived and the meal is ready to serve, the teacher of the class is called on to ask the blessing, and is also given a seat of honor at one of the tables. And he is the first one in the line to be served.

When the meal is over, the dishes are taken to the kitchen but not washed. It doesn't take more than an hour to wash the dishes after the guests are gone, but if the guests do them, it makes a big interruption in the program. All the tables are taken from the parlor, and the guests are seated. Since this is a home affair, the minister's wife, as hostess, presides. After everyone is seated she expresses joy in having the group in their home. And now, to get better acquainted, each person present is to have five minutes to tell how he became a Seventh-day Adventist. This time limit is necessary and must be adhered to, because there is nearly always someone who would monopolize the whole eve­ning if given a chance. Even with a time limit, it is frequently necessary to interrupt the nar­rative by saying, "That is surely interesting, Brother Kurtz. Now what can you add to the story, Sister Kurtz?"

This is the high point of the program. The information gleaned from their stories usually gives us an insight into the background of in­dividuals that might take a long time to get otherwise. It also makes many in the class feel better acquainted. At one of the last parties we had we were surprised when one young woman disclosed the fact that she had been a professional entertainer and dancer, and one of the men told us that his mother had been a circus woman.

After this part of the program is over, we use the poems they have brought. If someone says he cannot stay longer, we leave out the poems and finish with a game that everyone can participate in, then have prayer, and peo­ple automatically know that the party is over. Everyone goes home happy. The preacher and his wife belong to them now, because they know how they live. And the minister and his wife feel that these are their people now. They have eaten in their home, partaken of their hospitality, and told about themselves. They are friends!


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MRS. LEONARD C. LEE, Minister's Wife, Ohio Conference

April 1956

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