by Dr. Rudy Guess, Senior Pastor
Gardendale-Mt. Vernon's worship attendance has averaged better than a 5% increase per year since 1999. In 2004 the average worship attendance in the 3 morning services was 640. That increased to 678 in 2005 and the average in 2006 is 724. One of the reasons for that increase is three different styles of worship experiences with one common message. We often begin the year with a series of messages that is designed with the unchurched in mind. For example, this year we began with a message series "Narnia and the Gospel" which was promoted in the newspaper and with door hangers.
New residents to the area are visited by our Welcome Wagon Team and given an information/gift packet. First time worship guests are visited on the Sunday afternoon of their first visit and given a welcome packet. During the first 14 weeks after a person's initial visit in worship, a plan of follow up is followed that includes regular contacts through telephone or visitation. Each month, a letter with an evaluation sheet is sent to all who visited during that month, asking them to rate how we welcomed them and asking for suggestions on what we could do better. At the same time, we are intentional about following up on our church family when they are absent. Everyone who misses worship three and five consecutive weeks is contacted by staff or their flock leader.
Throughout the year we offer some outreach events. Examples include: Community Easter Egg Hunt with worship at the park, Community Service Day, Bring-A-Friend Sunday, Supper with Santa, Christmas Pageant, and our annual August Camp Meeting Month. One of the key outreach ministries is our Child Enrichment Center. Many of our first time worship guests first experience our church through the Child Enrichment Center.
We have also found a common spiritual growth emphasis where morning worship and discipleship groups study a common theme are very powerful. For example, our fall spiritual growth campaign for 2005 was Managing Life. It included the morning messages, daily devotional material, Sunday school material and small group material.