By Drew Sherman
Over the last 13 years we have hosted more than 3,000 of our church family in our home. (That’s not a misprint!) During that time, our church attendance has grown from 1,500 to more than 6,000.
God called my wife and me to Highland Meadows Christian Church near Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in the summer of 2002. Four years later we changed our name to Compass Christian Church because we thought it better fit our plan for multisite ministry. We were excited about our rapid growth but concerned we were growing too busy to get to know the new people choosing to call Compass home.
So, in 2006, we started what we call the New Member Gathering in our home. We felt a strong desire to connect with the amazing Christ followers who were coming through the doors at Compass and it was time to try something new. The premise was (and is) simple: We invite anyone who has been baptized or joined Compass to our home for dinner. We’ve been doing it for more than a dozen years, and it’s been a truly amazing experience.
Friends constantly tell me, “You guys are too large to continue New Member Gathering.” But I disagree. Having these people in our home has proven to be a great way for us to connect personally with God’s people.
As a side benefit, we consistently hear people say they can’t believe they are invited to the pastor’s home in a church our size. Many have told us it’s a big part of how we are developing our “invite culture.” Our people say it allows them to have a cool conversation with friends who are considering a visit to Compass. When strangers say our church is “too big,” our people often respond with something like, “You know, I’ve been to the pastor’s house for dinner, so it’s clearly a very personal place.”
How We Make It Work
Many friends have asked me how we are able to manage this process. It’s actually not complex. We have the event 10 times a year, averaging about every five weeks or so.
Even after all these years, the agenda has remained simple. We invite new members by mail and by text. Michelle and I host it in our home on Tuesday evenings. People arrive at 6:15 p.m. and are welcomed by three to five staff members/greeters who hand out name tags and get acquainted with people as they come in. A parking attendant helps guests park and a security team member makes sure everyone is safe.
The meal is catered, and our average crowd is between 35 and 45 people. We’ve had as many as 75 and as few as 4 (because of a January ice storm). We pray and eat and have lots of conversation around the tables. Staff pastors are strategically seated at each table to help keep conversations moving. Michelle and I float around the room talking and serving coffee and dessert.
At about 7:00 we gather everyone in our large living room, and we ask each person to introduce themselves and share one thing they love about Compass. (We have a covert member of our story team there taking notes to get ideas for future videos!) These testimonies give us a great feel for what best connects with our people and it has become invaluable to our leadership.
As the evening winds down, Michelle and I share about our family and tell the story of how we came to Compass. I usually offer a sneak peek at what’s next at Compass and what I’m most excited about. We close in prayer and ask people to take a group picture with us. Everyone is dismissed at about 7:30. We all say farewell at the door as our new church family members leave. Staff members help Michelle and I clean up and we are all finished by 8 p.m.
Why It’s Worth It for Us
Most pastors long for a feeling of authenticity for their church. New Member Gathering has become a tool to make sure we connect with people on a personal level as we grow larger; it also helps us keep our ear to the ground with what people are dealing with. Best of all, we hear story after story of how God uses our weak, human efforts to change the lives of people in our church! The encouragement alone has been worth every late night, every dirty dish, and every parking problem. It’s a monthly experience that feeds our fire for the Lord, for his people, and for our ministry.
I’m grateful we’ve kept it going—it’s a chance for a simple, authentic Acts 2 experience in our church in spite of the complex nature of our programming and facilities.
Feel free to contact Compass if you are interested in something like this. We would love to help you get it started!
Drew Sherman serves as lead pastor of Compass Christian Church. Compass is one church with four locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Drew and Michelle have served Compass for 18 years.