We often hear our friends, colleagues, strangers talk about those people as if they could some how contaminate us, our place of worship, our community. Maybe we have even joined in the conversation about those people. Yes, we talk about them but what can we do about them or for them?
Rev. Lee A. Schott, a United Methodist pastor of Women at the Well UMC, has a few ideas and suggestions. Women at the Well UMC is one of only two United Methodist churches in the U.S. that are within prison walls. Scott’s church is in the women’s prison in Mitchellville, Iowa.
Before you read Schott’s suggestions about how to meet, embrace, and assist people who are different from us, think about your church community. How open is your church to someone who looks, dresses, talks, acts differently from your members? Is your church welcoming and friendly to guests? What happens during the Passing of the Peace? How involved is your church family in the community around your church building?
If you could not answer those questions quickly with significant examples of connecting with brothers and sisters in your community, perhaps you and your members need to study and practice the suggestions that Schott offers in her article, Connecting with Those People. Here is her list of suggestions; you will have to read her article for the full explanation:
- Be a safe listener
- Reduce your church’s barriers
- Watch your language
- Reach across the walls
- Don’t just “do missions.” Build relationships
- Maintain boundaries
You can read Schott’s entire article here: http://www.churchleadership.com/leadingideas/leaddocs/2015/150513_article.html.
Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is evaluating your church’s participation in mission, outreach, and nurture in light of Schott’s comments and then re-commit your church family to truly see and connect with THOSE PEOPLE.