Clergy Corner, July 20, 2018

Clergy Corner, July 20, 2018

St. JOSEPH — Pastor Gene Turner wants St. Joseph United Methodist Church to be around for many years to come.

In order for that to happen, he is challenging his parishioners to make changes. This includes being more welcoming to those who may not be regular churchgoers as well as opening their doors to people who may be different than the current makeup of the congregation.

"There may be some folks that come that don't look exactly like us, and that is OK," he said.

Turner has asked parishioners to be welcoming through conversation and invitation. He has also challenged them to examine if they want guests or expect them. The difference: Expecting guests means the congregation has to take certain steps to be more welcoming.

One change the church has made during his year as pastor is placing a sign inside of the main church doors that tells people where to go in the building.

Turner believes that's important since entering a new building for the first time can be intimidating. The church also have greeters at the doors to welcome and direct visitors.

"If you don't feel comfortable the first time," he said, "there is a high chance you won't be back."

Another thing Turner has asked the congregation to do is park in the adjacent lot if they're able to.

"I park over there every Sunday and walk across," Turner said.

Turner said leaving spaces closer to the church open on Sundays makes it easier for newcomers, or those who don't attend regularly, to feel welcomed.

He believes that many churches have gotten stuck in systems and ways of operation that do not resonate with younger people.

"If the 1950s would ever come back, we are poised for great success," he said. "That is probably not going to happen so we have to find a way to be relevant to the community around us."

Turner has also asked the congregation to think about what their church means to the community — and what would happen if the actual church building no longer existed.

"Who in this community would miss us because of what we do?" he said. "When we can name that, we will have our finger on who and where God is calling us to be as a congregation."

Nora Maberry Daniels is editor of The Leader, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit leaderlandnews.com.

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