Welcoming Congregation Refresher Program
Being recognized as a Welcoming Congregation is just the beginning, and is a commitment to the ever-ongoing work of being welcoming.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Ministries (LGBTQ Ministries) recommends that congregations go through a Welcoming Congregation Program or refresher programming every five years. A lot of turnover and changes to congregational life can happen over the years, and the wider culture also changes quickly. Refresher programming can help your congregation recommit to inclusive practices and also take the next steps in deepening your welcome ever further.
Renew your welcome, perhaps on the fifth or tenth anniversary of your original recognition (find out your anniversary by searching for yourself using our Find a Congregation feature and checking the Welcoming Congregations box). You can even officially renew your Welcoming Congregation status.
Think Creatively! Launch a Refresher Program
Revisit the Welcoming Congregation Guidelines and Action Steps and use them to create new goals. Each refresher program is different; there is no blueprint.
Strengthen relationships with local or state groups and organizations that serve LGBTQ needs. Ask how you can help their work and brainstorm ways to bring their message to your congregation.
Celebrate the progress you’ve made and identify areas where your congregation has room to grow. Congregations recognized more than a decade ago often benefit from refresher programming on transgender issues, bisexual and queer issues, race/ethnicity and sexuality, and other intersections of identity and experience. Be sure you are taking steps that will stretch your congregation to new levels of welcome.
Create diverse opportunities for engagement through education, congregational life, and community outreach. Here are just a few possibilities:
- Education Ideas and Opportunities
- Worship services, perhaps with guest speakers.
- Panel or round-table discussions.
- Film series with discussions.
- Congregation-wide common read and book discussions.
- Discussion forums before/after services or in small group ministry groups on welcome and inclusion topics.
Workshops (once or twice a month, as an afternoon or day-long event, or even online through webinar technology). Possible sources include:
- Ideas for Congregational Life
- Revisit your bylaws, policies, and procedures. Could they be updated to be more inclusive?
- Revisit the affirmative language you use to name your welcome in places like worship, orders of service, website and social media, brochure, etc. Does the language need updating? Are there more places where you can be explicit about your welcome?
- Include news and information of LGBTQ/welcoming concern in your newsletter, website, Facebook page, etc.
- If you haven't already, develop inclusive language guidelines to give to worship coordinators and speakers as well as congregational leaders.
- Revisit your religious education programming for all ages and make sure it is inclusive of all sorts of families, identities and experiences, abilities and learning styles, and more. Offer Our Whole Lives or partner with nearby congregations to offer it.
- Consider your liturgical calendar and congregational year and make sure that marginalized issues and history are a regular part of it.
- Think about how welcoming your physical space is and whether improvements could be made, such as gender neutral bathrooms.
- Institutionalize trainings/discussions for greeters/ushers (PDF) and other volunteers and staff on welcome and inclusion.
- Ideas for Community Outreach
- Host a public forum.
- Hold a film series open to the public.
- Strengthen relationships with local LGBTQ groups or organizations. Attend their events. Ask how you can help.
- Take action on a local, state, or national justice issue that connects your internal congregational ministry to the larger community. Work in partnership with justice groups.
- Build partnerships with nearby congregations in other denominations who are also committed to LGBTQ welcome. (Try the Institute for Welcoming Resource's map tool.)
- Brainstorm how your congregation can be of direct service to local LGBTQ communities and individuals in need. A support group or Pride Prom for queer and trans youth? A meals-on-wheels program for homebound LGBTQ folks? A pen-pal program for incarcerated queer and trans people? Think big!
Take the Next Step Toward Welcoming All
Think about which individuals would feel most welcome in your congregation, and who might feel less welcome. Would a working class lesbian single mom feel welcome? Would an elderly Latino transgender man? How about a blind genderqueer person? How might you extend your welcome, little by little, step by step?
The Welcoming Congregation Program is simply one entry point. Incorporate other entry points into your Welcoming Congregation refresher programming, or tackle them as your next step toward welcoming all and affirming that diversity enriches our communities. Visit our Nurturing Inclusivity pages for more ideas.
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