From the Editor

“You’re welcome here … sort of.”

Michael L. Sherer

Michael L. Sherer

Why do Lutherans have so much trouble welcoming strangers?

Two former parish clergy have told me, over the space of the past five years, of their search for a “welcoming Lutheran congregation” in the Twin Cities. Both were in situations which led them to go looking for a new church home. Both visited at dozens of area Lutheran congregations. Both had identical experiences.

“Nobody talked to me. I had to initiate every conversation, and got only perfunctory responses. Some seemed not to care whether I was there or not.” (Both finally found a welcoming congregation to join, but it took months to locate it.)

In this day, when Lutheran church membership numbers are flat or declining, one can only guess how many seekers give up on Lutheran Christianity altogether after such an experience. I once worked with a communication team intending to use the theme “The Welcome Place” as the official synod slogan for all member congregations. Knowing the reputations of some of those faith communities, the not-so-funny joke on the committee was, “In the interest of truth in advertising, we’d have to insist some congregations advertise themselves as ‘The Welcome Place — certain conditions apply.’”

What’s wrong with this picture? A lot!

Recently Metro Lutheran received the text of a proposed classified advertisement, to be included in our October issue. I was so struck with its content, I decided, instead, to run it, free of charge, in this column. If your congregation is ready to be as welcoming as the Great Commission suggests (read Matthew 28), get in touch with this individual.

[Here’s the text of the “classified”:]

I’m looking for a church in Minneapolis in which I also can become involved in some sort of community outreach ministry. The church I am looking for must have a congregation that will care if I miss a Sunday because of illness and not be afraid to call me to find out what happened. I spent four years at a church that had over 1,000 in attendance each Sunday, and every Sunday I sat alone. People stared at me as I went out the door, but while we were encouraged to welcome the visitors, not one said anything about the members who sat alone. After leaving there, I’ve been to a few others, but discovered visitors were tolerated, but not really welcome. In fact, none of the churches I have visited and left my contact information with have asked me to come back. I don’t know where else to look, so I need a congregation to find me. If you are a congregation that goes beyond tolerating visitors and is willing to embrace someone new in your worship, please! contact me. Becky A. Cole, 612-522-9144.