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How Can You Share Your Church Community with Non-Churched Friends?

by the Rev. Andy Schwiebert

Andy Schwiebert and Desiree Udria-Garcia

Andy Schwiebert and Desiree Udria-Garcia

How do you invite new people to church?  What sort of non-threatening spaces would your non-churched friends actually consider coming to where they would feel eager to respond to a personal invitation and also comfortable hanging out in a “churchy” setting?  These are the questions young adults of First Congregational Church of Pasadena’s (a)Spire Ministry ask themselves all the time.   We were wrestling with this most recently a few months back when one of our music leaders came up with an idea.

We took stock of our community and noticed that a) most people in our church love live music, b) several are gifted musicians, c) a few folks can REALLY cook… and d) everyone loves to eat and share a meal around a common table.   So one of our volunteer worship leaders, James Chavers, suggested we host a “Dinner and Music” event, an “evening of melodious dining” at which our “singing servers” would dish up a delicious mix of music and home-made food, and also slip in some testimonials about what our community has meant for them.   We pulled it off on Saturday August 10th.

James Chavers

James Chavers

James, Desiree Udria-Garcia (our assistant music director) and Beau Wammack (music director) put the list of music together and invited a few friends (and a couple of young music students) to share a song or two while Jackie Udria-Garcia cooked an AMAZING plate of food.  Music ranged from rock and pop, blues, gospel and classical, and we took chat breaks every five songs for people at each table of seven to get to know each other.

At the event, James shared his testimonial about finding in our community—as  in other UCC churches—a place of welcome and inclusion and a place where relevant music that speaks to his life experiences is valued.

Our team of five people each brought 10-15 people, and together we managed to bring nearly 60 people together.  We surpassed our goal of raising a few hundred dollars through selling tickets; but our main goal was not fundraising; it was to reach out to our non-churched friends.

At least half the people who came were younger adults, aged 25-40, a few were younger families and a few youth were present. About two out of five were (a)Spire regulars and about half were brand new to our community.   Thea Mateu, SCNC Young Adult Coordinator was in attendance with her partner, Rikka Racelis.  Since then, we’ve followed up with those who visited, extending an invitation to come back some time.

I believe that what younger adults are most hungering for today is authentic community and shared experiences of God. Our hope is that through gathering around a common table and offering up music that feeds our souls, we are creating new spaces to be church and to be a community that is sharing the radically inclusive love of Jesus.

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Rev. Andy Schwiebert is the Lead Pastor for (a)Spire Ministry, a new ministry of First Congregational Church of Pasadena, UCC. Our Mission: we aspire to be a beacon and refuge for the seeker and offer sustenance for the hungry, together becoming witnesses to the radically inclusive love of Jesus.

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