Anthony B. Robinson has written an excellent piece for Faith & Leadership: “Building a Front Porch.” He seeks to answer these mission critical questions:
How can church leaders create an intermediate space where people can begin to learn that church isn’t an entertainment experience?
How can churches build the front porch, creating a space where people can develop relationships before coming inside?
Great questions! Robinson supplies a number of possible answers: seeker service; church meets in a coffee shop; church sponsored community fair; community projects; service ministries; mission trips. I have experienced all of these at one time or another and have seen them provide a place for guests to begin to experience church life in a less “churchy” context.
When I was senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, we had many front porches, including digital ones. Our church website supplied lost of information about the church, its beliefs, practices, values, etc. My blog often drew readers who were thinking about visiting the church but wanted to know more about the pastor in advance. We had just begun social media conversations. These functioned as a point of entry into community for some folks.
In my experience, a digital media front porch is especially well suited to those who are introverted, who break out into a sweat at the thought of being hugged by greeters and “fellowshipping” on a patio full of strangers. As a pastor, I often became acquainted with people who ended up coming to our church because they emailed me with their questions, pastoral needs, etc. Email was a fine “front porch.”
Of course, churches don’t have to choose between digital front porches and other options. I think all churches need several front porches in order to welcome folks into their community.
What do you think?