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8002 U. S. Highway 301 South, Riverview, FL  33578  813-677-5995
Be a Host--Not a Guest!
I hope that August finds you and yours doing well, and staying cool in the summer. It’s hard to accept that school starts this year on August 10th. Whatever happened to those good ole days when kids didn’t go back to school until the Tuesday after Labor Day?

One thing we know about the beginning of a new school year is that many people, and especially families, return to church or seek out a new church to attend. We at RUMC are likely to see many new and returning faces in our congregation during the months of August or September.   
 That gives our church family a real opportunity to freshen up our hospitality skills. We need to be intentional about welcoming our guests as the come to worship the Lord with us on Sundays!

Below is a helpful list of ways that we, as members of the RUMC family, can express our love and offer our hospitality to everyone who walks through our doors to worship with us. The list is adapted from the book “Now Go Forward”, written by J. David Eschelman. Dr. Eschelman says “Loving unbelievers the way Jesus did is the most overlooked key to growing a church…the command to love is one of the most repeated command in the New Testament.”

  • Every church member is a host and not a guest. Making visitors feel welcome is primarily the responsibility of every member.
  • The most important person for a visitor to talk to in order to “feel at home” in a new church setting is you. It’s not the pastor or the greeter at the door, but a regular church attender. Dr. Eshelman says “One of the most impressive gestures we can extend to first time visitors is to take the initiative and welcome them.”
  • Treat visitors as “guest of God” and not as “strangers”. Treat them as those who have received a special invitation to worship with us from the Lord himself.
  • Smile at everyone, and take the time to offer your hand, look them in the eye and smile.
  • Take the initiative—be intentional—don’t wait for a guest to initiate conversation with you.
  • Take the opportunity to learn the names of those you greet, and try to remember them. There is power in remembering a person’s name—we all know that.
  • Try your best to listen to what they are saying. Ask questions and learn about our guests. It is better to express an interest in them than it is to try to “sell” our church and its programs.
  • Never let new people sit alone, unless they request to do so. Offer to sit with them or ask if they would like to sit with you. Make the offer—they will remember it as a kind act of hospitality.
  • Invite visitors to join you at something, anything. Perhaps to be with us at our next Wonderful Wednesday potluck, a bible study, a choir practice, or a faith group class on Sunday.
  • Make sure that you genuinely let people know that you are glad they decided to join us today, and that you hope that they will receive a blessing in today’s worship celebration.
  • Encourage our guest to take the time to fill out one of our “Connect Cards”—and really emphasize the “Prayer Request” area on the back of the card.
  • Greet the children in the family at their level, smile, and express an interest in their welfare.
  • Pray for our guests throughout the week. “The power of prevailing prayer will bring forth much fruit.”
  • Finally, be yourself! You are loving! You have a good thing going! You have the capacity to love more people and to love more deeply.

My friends, practice making people feel special. What you give to others will be returned to you.

In Christ’s Love and Service,
Pastor Merritt
Welcome to the “New” 
Gulf Central District
I hope you are enjoying your summer throughout the quad county area (Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough, and Polk) of our new Gulf Central District. This is my first supper in the Gulf Central area, and I’m enjoying the sunny, long, hot, rainy days that make up the month of July. I know I’m in the Tampa Bay area when I’m driving on Highway 19 and the sun is shining—yet by the time I reach I-275N/I-4E the sky has darkened, the traffic has worsened, and I’m now in a summer thunderstorm. When my car comes to a standstill, it’s easy for me to become frustrated wondering if I’m going to get to my destination on time.

Sitting in traffic, I’m learning to exhale, pause, and remember 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which invites us to “Rejoice continually, give thanks in every situation because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”. On my good days, I find myself praying continually to get through the storm always discovering on the other side of the thunderstorm, when the shines again. Before I got out my car, recently, I looked up and discovered a beautiful double rainbow in the sky!! Another reason to rejoice. I hope that you are finding reasons to rejoice this summer even if you have to pray continually to get through the storm.

I see God growing and strengthening these five Areas of Focus in all eighty-nine (89) churches in our District.

  • Making "new" disciples of Jesus Christ and strengthening existing disciples who will grow vital congregations that will transform the world in their communities within our quad county area (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties).
  • Starting new Fresh Expressions of missions and ministries and starting new churches to reach more people, more young people, and more diverse people. 
  • Strengthening our Church and School connections throughout our quad county area.
  • Increasing intentional missional engagement - through intentional mercy and justice ministries throughout our quad county area.
  • Developing lay leadership development and cultivating the call with new and next generation laity and clergy. 

Thanks for taking the time to read and share our monthly newsletter throughout your congregation. It includes important information about upcoming meetings, educational and training opportunities happening throughout our District, and our news from our UMC Connection. We will also be sharing resources to assist you in making new disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and your community.

I am honored to serve as your District Superintendent and chief missional strategist. I look forward to being a partner with you in this amazing mission and ministry to which we have been called.

In Christ’s Service,
Rev. Dr. Candace M. Lewis
Superintendent, Gulf Central District
1498 Rosery Road East
Largo, FL 33770-1656
ds-gc@flumc.org … (727) 585-1207
www.gcdistrictumc.org