I married into Windsor United Church of Christ (WUCC) in Windsor, Wisconsin 49 years ago. My wife was baptized and confirmed there so we pretty much know every member. Over the years it was noticeable to us that we weren’t growing proportionally to the community. Various things had been tried but nothing seemed to have a lasting impact that was noticeable. So I brought the issue up to a few members and they agreed something needed to be done. The journey with Welcoming Touch Ministries, Incorporated had begun.
I warned people that we soon would find out just how “friendly” WUCC really was. With church leadership approval, Ward [Utterback] and I scheduled an Unannounced Visit service when there was a large youth program guaranteeing most of the congregation would be in attendance. He [Ward] came and sat 2/3rds of the way back on the right hand side of the sanctuary. After the service was over he sat in the chair and not one single person came up to greet him. I was right! It was a real eye opener for the rest of the core group and they were eager to do something about it.
Ward came back (I actually wondered if he would!) and worked with us. He preached a sermon [A Welcoming Church Culture] and held a [Welcoming] Workshop. Both ministry services were very well received. In addition we received a custom written WUCC Welcoming Ministry Manual which will always be a go-to reference. Our Choir Director has taken over the Greeters and many of us continue to show by example how to go up and meet a stranger using the techniques Ward shared with us.
Today the church is more filled each Sunday and we receive many warm comments about how much it means to have somebody stand at the door and be welcomed. We have two umbrella buckets ready to assist people when the weather is wet.
A few weeks before Christmas I noticed a stranger sitting near the back of the sanctuary. I introduced myself to her and encourage two other people to go over and do the same. Other people introduced themselves after the service but she didn’t get up. I went over when the sanctuary was nearly empty and she started weeping. My wife came over and we took her into an office where she felt comfortable. We talked and prayed with her for quite a while. Satan rules a very cruel world. She has been back every Sunday and many people have come up to her, introduced themselves and welcomed her.
One young young couple visited at Thanksgiving as they were “church shopping”. When introducing themselves to the congregation the day they join the church the husband said they came her one time and didn’t need to go [church] shopping anymore!
Other strangers have been welcomed warmly and are starting to return. Welcoming Touch Ministries was the catalyst we needed. The techniques Ward teaches are now such a natural thing we don’t even think about it. It has even allowed men to invite men to men’s group.
I like to think of this program as not being completed. It is the beginning! Thanks Ward!
Windsor United Church of Christ