Pendleton Leaders Experience Sunday Churches

It was Sunday morning, and I was getting ready for church. The problem was, the local church was not listed in the Yellow Pages. Frustrated, I did a search on the Internet and found a general listing of and directions to churches but no times for services. I finally found the phone number and tried calling the church, but no one answered.

Following the Web site directions, I ended in the middle of a wheat field about 10 miles from town. Clearly, this was not the church.

I tried calling again and finally reached someone who gave me the correct directions. The worship service had just ended, the man said, and Sunday School was about to start. As I walked in late, I felt rather uneasy among strangers, with no one to greet me.

My learning experience was just one of many that Sunday as 25 Pendleton (Ore.) Church leaders attended worship services at 15 local churches. Our purpose was to feel what it is like to be a visitor in an unfamiliar church, as a means of making our own church more visitor friendly.

Senior pastor Andrew McCrary randomly assigned us a church without including any contact information, since part of the assignment was to see how easy it was to find information about churches.

Right after the services, the Fireside Room of our church buzzed as we ate and shared our experiences and ideas that we can incorporate as we greet visitors at our own services.

“The dinner afterward was an invaluable experience, as we each shared and listened to one another’s experiences," McCrary said. "Many of us were surprised by our nervousness—as Christians—going to an unfamiliar church. Imagine what unchurched guests experience! Many of us were also surprised by the extra stress experienced by those who attended alone.”

Visitor Sunday was just one event in an ongoing process to become a vibrant, growing church, which has included a revitalization weekend presented by the Upper Columbia Conference ministerial department, taking the Natural Church Development Survey, and hosting a church consulting team, which helped us evaluate our church and refine our vision for the future.