sometime you want to go...

where everybody knows your name...

no, the bishop has not appointed us to boston after 7 days in prosper! we're still here, and very happy. the boys returned from their five days in bay city last friday, and are really digging their rooms and the new house. one huge bonus: the church playground, covered, right across the street. it's great to be a kid in prosper!

i just returned from lunch at the place to eat in prosper, the cotton gin. it's a great little place, packed around the clock, in downtown, just a few blocks from the church. in fact, it's run by church members! so far i think we have had five meals there, and yes, we've been in town for a week! they've got everything, from breakfast to burgers to chicken fried steak to salads, if that's your thing. today i had a huge cheeseburger, a final celebration of food before the season of lent begins tomorrow, ash wednesday. for lent i will be fasting on wednesdays, and not eating sweets or fried foods until easter (i will take a lenten break to celebrate miles' birthday on friday-- God will understand). christy loves lent!

the cotton gin is a place much like cheers was-- it has its regulars and newcomers. but in the center of a small town it is hard to not be noticed as the new guy in town, especially in a fairly visible position, as pastor in one of the churches. everytime i go in there now i see people who know me-- sometimes i know them, sometimes i even remember their names! but it's pretty clear who the guests are. hopefully members will be forgiving if i do not recognize them! speaking of standing out, christy and i had breakfast the other day at the c.g. and who sat at the table next to us? deion sanders. no, i did not ask him to autograph my napkin.

when does the church feel like the place where everybody knows your name? and how do folk who attend large churches avoid feeling like a consumer at a business where no one greets them or welcomes them or remembers them? how do churches of any size make their folk feel like they are at home when they come-- whether they're new in town or have been around for generations? i have been in churches where no one seemed to notice or care that i was there, and at other times i've been treated like royalty. i'm not sure it's the number on the membership roles that makes the difference either. it's more of an intentionality of the members to remember the importance of hospitality.

that will be one of the more important and hardest characteristics of prosper umc to hold on to as it grows every year. but we are going to succeed at it. we want to be the place where folk feel most welcome in the town of prosper. and after church they can go to downtown and enjoy the good food at the cotton gin. just make sure you get there in time to beat the baptists!