WBB 21 Preparation Course

WBB 21 Preparation Course

Session 1: WELCOME

STARTER.                 (10 minutes)

Choose one of the following options as a discussion starter:

  1. First impressions count!  Many are looking for a place in which to worship which is friendly and welcoming.  What first impressions do newcomers get when they visit your church?

Jesus came to church one day
And sat down in a pew.
The Rector preached, the people sang
And no one ever knew.
He wasn’t dressed in special clothes,
Nothing fashionable or new,
No shining light above his head,
So no one ever knew.
The service done, the people left.
They’d other things to do.
And Jesus also left that church.
And no one ever knew.

  1. Invite someone from outside the parish to visit and give some feedback on the welcome they received
  1. Invite someone new to the parish to share some of their insights. Encourage honesty.
  1. Imagine you have been asked to visit some place that makes you feel quite uncomfortable. Where might that place be? Has anything like this ever happened in reality? How did you feel? Why? What might help you feel more comfortable in that situation? Now turn the situation around: how might someone unused to church feel about coming to worship in your parish? What might help them to “cross the door”?


MAIN COURSE.         (40 minutes)

Read Acts 9: 10-20   Ananias welcomes Paul

Focus discussion on Ananias as a welcomer. Allow those present to pick up on a few of these questions:

(It may be helpful to point out that it is the person rather than the context that is the focus of this study. Hopefully, no parish will ever regard the people outside with quite the same suspicion as that which met Paul!)

What might bring people to church for the first time or after a long absence?

What negative factors might make genuine welcome difficult?

What qualities do you recognise in Ananias that enabled him to offer a sense of belonging to Paul?

How might we work towards a situation where every regular member of the parish sees that they have a role to play in welcoming others?

What specific steps can we take to make people feel welcome – without frightening them away?

What are the first things a newcomer sees, or who are the first people a newcomer meets?

Where does welcome begin? At the church door? Or in the community?

Other suitable Bible references to explore in your own way:

Matt 25: 31 – 40, Heb. 13: 1,2; 1 Peter 4: 8,9


DESSERT.                   Choose one of the following

1.      Invite those present to imagine they are going to a church they’ve never

been to before. Imagine that the welcomer is Jesus. What does he say? How does he act? What do you see in the background? Take time to explore how you feel.

Pray that Jesus’ ministry of welcome might be a reality in your church… and in you.

2.  Ask people to use the letters W-E-L-C-O-M-E to express what they would like the welcome in your church to be e.g. Warm, Encouraging, Loving etc. Write the words on large pieces of paper and place on the floor around the room. Invite people to move around and quietly to pray that these qualities might be reflected in their own lives and in the life of the parish. 

3.  Invite those present to think of one or two people they know who currently do not attend worship (it could be family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours, anyone) but whom they would like to welcome to church. Play some quiet music. Invite those present if they wish to write the names of those they have identified on a piece of paper and in silence to bring them forward to a set point (e.g. A cross on a table). Stress the pieces of paper will not be identified. It is confidential, between them and God. 

WBB 21 Preparation Course




Just as the organ began to play at the crowded morning Communion Service, a man wearing a brown hat was ushered into the front pew.  Since he continued to wear the hat, one of the sidesmen came to him kindly suggesting that he take it off.  “No”, he said, “I prefer to keep it on.”

There was some consternation at the back of the church as the churchwardens discussed what they should do.  The Rector’s warden was enlisted to make another appeal, which he did, only to have the man under the hat reply, “I have every right to keep my hat on, and I intend to do so!”  The warden retreated and then had a bright idea, he would ask the Enrolling Member of the Mothers’ Union to try and have the hat removed, but alas, she also failed.

The service went ahead, the preacher was distracted by the sight of the man with the hat in the front seat, and his sermon suffered accordingly.  Yet through it all, even at the communion rail, the hat still sat glued to the head of the unknown man.

After the recessional hymn, while the people were being greeted as they left, the Rector begged the hated man to stay for a few moments.  When all the hands were shaken, the minister approached the man, and in a friendly way, said, “It’s nice to meet you, sir.  It has been a great pleasure to have you worship with us this morning, and I hope that you will come again.  However, it is the custom in the Anglican Church for men to remove their hats during the service.  I hope that you might conform to this practice in the future.”

The man under the hat replied, “Thank you very much.  I enjoyed today’s service.  It is good of you to invite me to become part of the congregation.   In fact I joined three years ago and have been coming regularly ever since, but today has been the first time that anyone has paid any attention to me!”

What issues does this story raise for you? Discuss in groups.

2. In a TV documentary on “Faith in the Future”, a growing church was featured.  The programme focussed on one young couple who had started attending church.  Two things drew them to that particular church:-

  1. The worship was lively and sincere and the teaching was relevant.
  2. The friendliness they encountered.

Someone has said that the most effective form of evangelism is friendliness – something we can all attempt.

The threshold of a church is sometimes a bigger barrier than we realise.

A survey in America found that 83% of those who started going to church for the first time did so because they were invited and brought along by a friend.

How did you begin attending this church?

4.   We often end a meeting by saying “The Grace”. Why not begin this session by saying it together? If appropriate suggest keeping eyes open. Then unpack what it means, especially the word “fellowship”.



Look at Acts 2:42-47

What were the values of these early Christians as they formed themselves into church?

How might our values compare?

What is the fellowship that is talked about here?

Whose job is it to care for people?

In what ways can we become a more caring parish?

Are there areas of fellowship and caring in our parish that are being neglected and which need attention?

What ways have we of integrating into the life of the parish new people who join?

Alternative passage for study: James 2: 1 – 4



1.      Play a CD of Graham Kendrick’s song “Peace to you”. Encourage all present to share the peace without using words then to pray quietly for someone who is not present.

2.      Plant a fast growing flower bulb in a pot. Place it somewhere that people can see it grow week by week. Encourage them to ask each time they see it, How am I growing in my faith? How am I contributing to a growing fellowship within this parish?


WBB 21 Preparation Course



1.      Encourage those present to share with each other an experience of worship they have had outside their own parish and which made an impression them. What impact did it make and why?

2.      After a complete visitation of his diocese of Bath and Wells, the then bishop, George Carey, wrote to clergy sand churchwardens:-

“Bishops and archdeacons spend a great deal of their time worshipping in many different types of churches. They vary a great deal from a High Mass to a low communion.  It might be the old Book of Common Prayer, or the revised services, or a free form of Family Service… I don’t want to make judgements on what we see going on, but I will tell you this – the quality of what is offered has a significant bearing on the growth of Christianity in that place….I am convinced that worship needs more attention, not less, by congregations, if they are concerned to make it available to others.   The better we prepare, the better we hone the human skills of love and devotion, the more it will come from the heart”

Do you agree?  What is the essence of worship?


Ephesians 5:15-20

Why is worship important?

Who is worship for?

What is the connection between worship and life?

What do you think God would want to say to us about the worship offered in our parish church?

How accessible are our forms of service and how relevant are they to the lives of our people?

What do I bring to worship? What do I receive?

What opportunities are there to develop and nurture the faith outside of church services? Should anything else should be available?

Alternative Bible passages:  Amos 5:21-24; 1 Cor. 14: 24 – 26, 40



  1. Pray some quiet instrumental music on CD. In the silence invite each person to pray for three things:
    1. For one thing for their parish and its worship,
    2. for one other person in the church and
    3. for one thing they’d like to receive for themselves.

Allow several minutes on each topic. One member of the group could conclude with an appropriate spoken or liturgical prayer.

  1. Thank you – Please prayers. Seated in a circle pass a lighted candle around the group twice. As each person receives the candle they are invited to say “Thank you God for…. (perhaps something in the life of the parish?)”, then, second time round, “Please… ”. Give permission for those who might find it intimidating simply to pray inwardly. Give examples before you start.


WBB 21 Preparation Course


STARTER (one of the following)

  1. One of the great 18th century preachers, George Whitefield, went to America.  In addition to Bibles and prayer-books, he carried medicine for the sick and provisions for the destitute.  As well as preaching, he established orphanages and engaged in social action.

A recent conference on Evangelism reported, “The Church faces a clear challenge to be involved….We must change from being maintenance people to those who have outreach as a priority”.

“If we as Christians are out-loved by those who profess no faith in Christ, then our discipleship is seriously questioned”.  Rev. Jack Burton.

St Francis of Assisi once said to his followers, “Go and preach the Gospel, with words if you must!”

Find a need and fill it

Find a hurt and heal it.

In what ways is ours a serving church?

  1. There are different kinds of restaurants;
  1. Self-service
  2. Waiter-service
  3. Take away

Can you think of ways that churches might approximate? Which kind of restaurant might our church be most like?

  1. Play the song “The Servant King” or “Brother, sister, let me serve you .  Look at the words. What kind of service ought to be at the heart of the church? How do we compare?



John 13: 1-17

What kind of service did Jesus envisage for the church?

What would it mean for us as a church to serve our community with this kind of attitude?

Do we have any sense of what that might look like? Are there particular needs we may be being prompted to respond to?

Is the fact that Judas was among the group of disciples whose feet Jesus’ washed in any way relevant to us?

How does Jesus call to serve sit with the oft-quoted motto “Charity begins at home?”



  1. Go for a prayer walk. Take a short walk together around the parish or community. Stop at key venues such as schools, factories, places of entertainment and pray silently for those who meet there
  1. Read the story of the woman anointing Jesus’ feet with expensive perfume (Mark 14:1-9). Invite people to reflect on this extravagant act of service. Make the point that we are called to serve others extravagantly by passing round a bottle of perfume and inviting people to sprinkle the person beside them with some of the perfume as a kind of “commissioning” to go out and put this into practice. The lingering smell can be a powerful reminder.


WBB 21 Preparation Course



1.      Someone in a seminar on Growing Churches remarked how much of an impression is given by our service sheets, magazines and other communications. They should be of good quality. “Casual is not spiritual!”

Presentation is important and reflects the ethos of the parish.

How well do we communicate, with each other and others around us? How do we know what it is that we ought to be communicating?

2.      Your church has decided to produce a welcome leaflet to give to people new to the area. What would you want it to say about your parish church to someone who knows nothing it?

3.      Six or seven years ago an organisation identified 3 essential categories of communication for churches:-

                            1.    The occasional leaflet/invitation to major events, e.g., Christmas, Harvest, Weeks of Renewal,                                           Flower  Festivals etc., which will be circulated beyond the parish membership.

                            2. The monthly Parish Magazine which had 3 basic aims:-

a)         to inform church members of activities about to take place and to report on past events,

b)        to present what the church means to members and to teach about the faith,

c)         to present the parish as lively and involved fellowship to visitors and to those with only a tenuous link.
                                                                                                                                                       3.                  The weekly service sheet/announcement sheet.


How do those categories stand today? Where might there be gaps in our parish communications?

Would it be a good idea to do a survey of what parishioners think about communication and how it can be improved?



Matthew 13:1-3, 34-35

What evidence is there that Jesus was a good communicator?

What methods did he use?

What implications might this have for the way we communicate as a parish?

What did Jesus want to communicate? What do we want to communicate?

What message do our buildings, both outside and inside, give and are they easily identified and accessible?

Are announcements in church really the best way of informing parishioners about what’s happening?

If communication is a two-way process could we be described as a “listening church”?

Alternative Bible Ref: 1 Cor. 14: 7,8; 1 Cor. 13: 1-2; Mark 4v9



1.      Get a string of Christmas tree lights – with one bulb blown. What effect does this have? When the bulb is replaced read Matthew 5:15, “Let your light so shine…“  Use the bulb as a stimulus for prayer. Invite the group to share with God their longing for his light to fill the dark places of the community and the world.

2.      Draw a map of the local area and highlight meeting places for significant numbers of people. Pray that the message we seek to communicate might permeate those places.

WBB 21 Preparation Course



1.      A former Archbishop of Canterbury is reputed to have been asked by a reporter on a tour of Lambeth Palace, “How many people work here?” to which he replied, “About half of them!” Many churches would be happy if anything like half of those who claimed membership were active in working for the parish. Why is it so hard to get people involved?

2.      One Parish church has listed on its noticeboard the times of service, the names of the clergy and contact details. Then, right at the bottom, it says: “Ministers – the Whole Congregation”. What would the reaction be if this was included on your church noticeboard?

3.      In a seminar on Church Growth, someone identified the DNA of growing churches. One of the common factors was that members were encouraged to discover their gifts and then given opportunities to use them. They were not only given responsibility but were also trained and resourced.

Is this a weakness in our church (nationally and locally)?



1 Cor. 12: 4 – 13, 27

What words come to mind when listening to Paul’s description of the church?

What are the principles on which a church should operate? 

Are there parts of the body that think they are not needed?

In what ways do think ministry can and should be shared?

What is needed to make collaborative ministry a reality?

In an analysis of growing churches, huge resources were poured into ministry for children and young people.  Is our church child-friendly and family friendly?  Are children the forgotten people?  How can they be integrated into the worship and life of the parish?

A ministry to children and a ministry to young people are two distinct areas.  What are we doing in both?

What is your vision for the ministry of your church?


Two useful quotes:

The “omni-competent cleric” does not exist!  But an omni-competent congregation is very biblical.

Hans Reudi Weber has written: - “The laity are not there to help the clergy do their job.  The clergy are there to help the laity be the church.”



1.      Go into the church building. Invite people (together or in small groups) to pray for those who regularly sit in certain areas of the church that each person, of whatever age, would find opportunity and encouragement to use their gifts.

2.      Ask those present to form into a circle. Invite each member of the group in turn to stand in the middle of the circle. As the group gathers round in prayer and blessing a designated person reads some words based on 1 Cor. 12:27: “Now all of us together are Christ’s body and you (name…) are a valued and necessary part of it. May God equip and strengthen you do his will. Amen. ” (or other appropriate words).