Romans 15:7 (English Standard Version)
“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you so that God will be given glory.”
This blog would've probably been more relevant a month ago, and for that I apologise, however I plead still applicable as I'm aware that generally SCM groups gain members as the year goes on.
To kick this off I would like to share a recent experience about welcome I had:
When we were searching for a new church after having moved, one of the churches we tried was tiny. Very friendly, engaging sermon, good cake, but it wasn't the church for us. There were a few factors in this decision, primarily it was the fact that we were only going to be there for 10 months, and it wasn't enough time to make a change, given the time constraints, we needed a church where we could just get involved straight off. There were three main causes to us going elsewhere.
Firstly, they weren't doing anything, as a community, or otherwise from the looks of things. There were two things on the notices, one was a church meeting, the other was a postponed church meeting.
The second issue was the response when we asked about it (was there anything happening that hadn't made it to the notices) and we were told that there was an ecumenical bible study, but that happened once every few months, so it wasn't on the notices as it wasn't soon, and there was a mid week bible study, but it was full, so they didn't invite new people, so it wasn't on the notices.
The third issue was the general 'you're welcome, but this won't be the church for you attitude'. The minister gave us a pack about other local churches, the secretary told us when we found our new church to feel free to pop back and visit, even if it was just because we were running too late to make it to our regular, and the treasurer told us how they would understand if we moved on. Whilst it was lovely to know we were welcome, even if we didn't want to come regularly, it almost made it not the church for us. This is obviously problematic, it felt like they'd acknowledged their fate, and there was nothing they could do to improve.
Sometimes it's easy to have an acceptance that we're not what someone is looking for, and to that I wish to offer two things:
Firstly, the welcome. I remember being told in the run up to fresher's week in my second year about someone whose first experience been of a society saddened by the characters that had moved on. By lamenting what's been lost, sometimes you can miss what's arrived.
Secondly, you have something amazing to offer. This could be an open space for frank discussion, a place to air doubts and to try and find understanding, it may be a friendly place amidst an uncertain time, somewhere to become informed about social justice issues, or a campaign group fighting for a better world. You may offer something that will change someone's life, or challenge their views in the best kind of way, or maybe just a community filled with love, compassion and understanding. Don't forget, or lose focus on that. It doesn't matter (short term) if that's for 5 or 40 students.