December 12, 2014

Where Do You Go to Church?

Filed under: Congregational Development,Leadership — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 7:56 pm

Last week I fell into conversation with a new acquaintance around plans for her upcoming wedding. After talking about dates (June) and dresses (She has one.), I asked about her venue.

“I’m getting married at Church of the Good Shepherd.”

(My face is blank.)

“You know….the big Catholic Church on East Kemper Road.

(Still puzzled.)

Suddenly I blurted, “Oh! Is that the one around the curve from the big grocery store? It has ball fields and a walking path around it?”

She lit up, “Yes! That’s the one! I grew up in that church. That’s where my family goes. That’s where we’re getting married!”

I suspect this sort of disconnect is fairly common: I knew exactly what church she meant. I drive past it frequently and have a vivid impression of it as an active, inter-generational community. But I don’t know its name, nor do I have any real connection to it beyond that drive-by impression.

This leads me to wonder, in turn, how many of those “Seekers who don’t know they’re seeking” experience a similar disconnect. We may think of ourselves as members of St. Swithins, but it’s far more likely that our communities think of us as “the church next to the park,” or “the church with the pre-school,” or “the stone church on the corner.”

How might embracing our identity in the community shape our approach to invitation? How would we position our welcome differently if we looked at mission and ministry from the outside in? Could a shift in perspective soften the threshold and make our doors a bit more open?

Try this: In the comment box below, tell your fellow readers where you go to church, without using the church’s name.

As you think about congregational development, ask your congregation to do this exercise with you—not just leadership groups, but everyone, newcomers and long-standing members alike. The responses will serve as wonderful starting points for engaging invitation, building on strength, and understanding the context in which we worship, serve, and celebrate.



  1. The church by the river in newcastle you can see it from the bridge behind the trees

    Comment by Terry Marsh — December 12, 2014 @ 8:52 pm |Reply

  2. The church on the left before you get to the bridge to Cousins Island. You can sort of see it through the trees and the sign by the driveway is lit at night.

    Comment by Elizabeth — March 26, 2015 @ 2:21 pm |Reply

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