Chief of Staff, British-American Business Council
Jersey City, NJ
1. How are things?
Ask it, and mean it. Don’t settle for the canned and polite responses we all use. “It’s fine” and “I’m good” are polite ways of saying, “I know you don’t really care.” Ask it, wait for the canned response, and then keep silent and wait to see what the person says. It takes some practice and discipline, but this little trick is a foundation for basic listening and pastoral skills. A seminary professor of mine always called listening to someone “love delivered.”
2. Why are you here?
At the parish I went to in college, an older woman would stand by the door of the church and ask that question in an accusatory way, ensuring that ‘outsiders’ remained physically outside. Let’s re-purpose her question to gently lead to a more reflective discussion as to why you and I remain involved in the Church as adults, and why the young adults who walk through our door do too. This can lead to them expressing how they have been involved in the Church in the past, which can help us suggest ways for them to become part of the parish community.
3. What’s different?
There is a huge amount of diversity in the ‘little t’ traditions that make up the praxis of our faith. Gently asking about or highlighting what’s different about your particular parish serves several purposes: inviting them to share about their previous parish experiences, inviting you to open up about your history with the community, and putting new people at ease.
4. How did you find us?
This question helps gauge how your parish is visible in the community. Specific answers can guide future decisions on where your parish in investing its time and money. Once, a young adult said to me, “I found you on the metropolis website, but I had a hard time finding your parish page through Google.” An answer like this might suggest that you need to think more about your parish website and how it appears in search engines.
5. Nothing at all.
Don’t feel a strong need to ask anything in particular. All of my business school sales training told me that people are looking for an opportunity to share their stories. Give them the space and the patience to let them do that, and it will automatically make them feel warmly welcomed and part of a caring community.