welcomerI want to open up some reflection; a conversation.

I promised in a recent comment to explore inviting to tasks, ministries, and church growth. A specific example: the comment was from someone whose community invites people to proclaim the scriptures at church. A lot of these people wouldn’t normally come to church – so this becomes a way to get these people into church. Such a person, obviously, would not regard their reading as “ministry” (as I would). They may read well, excellently, or badly (or anywhere along the spectrum).

I know a parish that was revitalised because the vicar invited generally-not-regularly-attending men onto a roster to be “sidesmen” (and yes – they were, in those days, all men – I don’t use “men” as a gender-inclusive word 😉 ) This was decades ago, when coming to church (especially in this particular parish context) was still in vogue. Welcoming people at the door did not, in those days and context, require special “gifts”. It would not have been seen as a ministry, but a task. The men started coming more regularly. The parish, as I said, thrived.

As a parish priest I confess that I increased the roles that children and young people could be assigned significantly from what I inherited. Children held candles either side of the gospel-reader; serving; etc.; etc.; More and more children came – it became understood as a child-friendly, family-friendly parish. Children brought their parents and grandparents (“I am needed at church this Sunday – to hold a gospel candle”).

On the one hand, let’s acknowledge issues around bait-and-switch. On the other let’s acknowledge that our motives are “mixed”. A young man goes to youth group because there’s an attractive young woman he likes there. A person is drawn to priesthood because of being drawn through its dramatic possibilities… someone comes to church because they have been invited to fulfil a task.

When do you think it appropriate to get people into church through inviting them to fulfil tasks? When is this at the detriment of ministry? When is it bait-and-switch too far? What do you think?

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