Thursday, October 25, 2007

Outreach and New Members Orientation--Lessons from Sertoma

I recently joined Sertoma, a local civic organization. Sertoma is a group like the Rotary club. It is a group that is made up of business people and community leaders who come together to do good things in the community. Sertoma originated in Kansas City, though it is now a national organization, and originally focused around helping the deaf. This is a focus it still keeps, though it does many other good deeds.

I joined Sertoma for two reasons. First, I wanted to develop some more relationships with non-Christians and with people in the community. And second, I wanted to spend more time with one of my friends, Matt. Matt and I have a lot in common, being the same age, with young children and an interest in sports, politics, and spiritual things. Matt is also a State Farm representative, he knows a lot of people in the community, and he has a gifting in evangelism. So I visited Sertoma a few times with Matt, and then I "joined."

You know what I discovered? Sociologically, there are a lot of things in common between organizations like Sertoma and the church.

1. People enter into Sertoma through relationships and personal invitations. I had never heard of Sertoma. But Matt mentioned the club to me, not really trying to sign me up, but just working it into his conversation. Since I was interested in joining some type of group, it piqued my interest. (See the parallels? We need people out talking about Jesus, their faith, and their church, and those who are searching will be interested.)

2. People keep coming to Sertoma because of the food and fellowship. Each Thursday, the Sertoma members eat a meal together before hearing a local leader speak and doing club business. These meals are very good, and in fact was one of the draws. You have to eat anyway, and members pre-pay for a quarter of the year. "Visitors" like I was at this time are allowed to come free for as long as they like. Take away the meal, and I almost guarantee the organization would fall apart. (See the parallels? Outreach needs to involve food and fellowship!)

3. Some Sertoma members are exceptional at getting new members. There is a member of the club named Bill who used to be the mayor of Liberty and now manages the local, family-owned theater. Bill might single-handedly be responsible for signing up more than half of the new members at Sertoma. In fact, one year, there was a contest between who could sign up the most members. Bill was pitted against all the other members of Sertoma--and he won! (See the parallels? There are some people who are extremely gifted in evangelism. They need to be equipped, encouraged, and released.)

4. Visitors at Sertoma need existing members to introduce them. I'm a very outgoing guy, but I depend a lot on Matt to help me remember who the members are and who they work for. It is just a lot easy to make connections with people when you have someone from the "inside" help facillitate this. I can imagine that more introverted people would be scared to death to go to a club like this without knowing a soul. (See the parallels? New people at church need members to take them around and introduce them into social circles.)

5. The "New Members" class at Sertoma helped me connect with some new people. Sertoma has an orientation for new members. There were four of us who were new to the club who sat down with two club officers and watched a video about Sertoma. There was one girl that I didn't really click with, but there were two younger guys there that I did. Guess what? After this orientation, we began to look for one another and sit with one another. Other than Matt, we had no other relational ties, and we were all looking for new relationships. (See the parallels? New Members classes are needed not just for doctrine, but for making new friendships. Without these friendships, people will soon drop out. This is why facilitating relationships in these classes through providing food and fellowship is needed.)
Pretty amazing parallels to church, would you not say? People are people, and they are driven by relationships.
What do you think of these thoughts from my Sertoma experience?


Kim S said...

What a great opportunity for you. I agree that there are several parallels with this organization and church. I think it is important that we as Christians remember the huge importance of developing relationships with non-christians as well as new christians. These parallels you mention in your message are all about doing just that. I will pray that you are able to bless many with your invovlement in this group.

James said...

Thanks, Kim. It is a great opportunity. I made some more connections this week, which I'll have to post later. And I really enjoy people there.

Thank you for your prayers! Also, thank you for reminding us of the need for this relationship building.