Joel Sarli was Associate Secretary of the General Conference Ministerial Association and the second editor of Elder’s Digest when this article was written.

Sometimes small things bring about great results.
It doesn 't cost much, just a little bit of dedication.
Read these suggestions, try them in your church
and see amazing things happen in your congregation.

I am sick and tired of calling friends and hearing that cold and impersonal voice produced by that electronic secretary.

Some days ago I called my pastor. I needed to talk to him. The answer I got was "If you want to talk with your pastor, press one." I obeyed the order just to hear that computerized, cool voice saying, "Sorry, we are unable to answer your call. Please call later."

Today's electronic gadgetry is making us an evergrowing, cold and impersonal community. We have everything to give the impression that we care about one another. We print large banners and stick them in the front doors of our church buildings. We write nice poems and print them on colorful cards telling the visitors that we enjoy their presence and that we want them back, but just five minutes after the worship service is over the visitor can hardly find someone to get information about the program for the coming week. It seems that the members don't like to spend time together or don't have much in common.

Meanwhile, people are shouting for recognition and the isolationism is flourishing among all types of congregations and cultures in the entire world. As a church we have to face this problem or we too will be written off as just another impersonal institution.

Here are some suggestions that I would like to present to local church elders. You may say that they are part of my culture. I don't mind. I used these suggestions in my congregations in Toronto, New York and Washington and they proved to be good. Try them, you might find them very helpful. Maybe they can change the shape of your congregation a little bit and bring some encouragement to a solitary soul in your church.

Learn people's names as you talk with them.

With very rare exceptions, people like to be called by their names. The use of the name creates a familiar environment for an easy-going conversation.

I remember once in a very informal meeting, Elder Neal C. Wilson called me by my name. I was surprised that this VIP who met me just once (and I was not a "big shot), remembered my name. I couldn't hold my curiosity so I asked him. "How do you know my name?" He answered, "When I worked among the Arabs I learned that they would be offended if I didn't know their names during our conversations. So I decided to work on this area. It took hard work and a lot of discipline. But now it's natural for me to learn the names of people." Everyone needs some improvement in this area. It doesn't come as a natural gift.

When you meet a new person ask them to repeat their name. Don't make the mistake of pronouncing their name wrong. Write it down on a card and try to make some kind of association with their face. It may be that when you meet them again you won't remember their name

Simply ask for their forgiveness and try again until their name is in the file of your memory. From that point on when you meet them always use their name and repeat the name several times in your conversation. This is a small avenue that will help you develop a personal relationship with people.

Greet people at the entrance and spend some time with them.

Nothing feels quite as good as to be genuinely greeted by someone with a warm smile, a firm handshake and a word of welcome.

In Toronto we trained greeters at each door whose ministry of greeting not only set the tone for what was going to happen that day, but started an important process of developing a continuing relationship.

Our goal is to make people feel part of the family of the church as quickly as possible and even for the people attending the church on a regular basis, there is nothing like being met at the door by someone who cares.

Spend time with people after the worship service.

Most of our members rush home as soon as the worship service is over and lose an excellent opportunity to share their Christian ideals with the visitors. I have discovered that many visitors would like to get more information about the church and talk to anyone available at this time. If they were attracted by what they heard and saw, for sure this would be a good opportunity to fan up that spark of interest.

Make your spouse aware of the importance of this aspect of your function as an elder and aware that you have something to do before going home.

Note the names and addresses of interested people.

Give the names to the pastor or call them during the days of the coming week reminding them of the programs at the church and inviting them to come again. This has proved to be a good source of Bible studies.

These little things will add to your ministry as an elder that personal touch that characterized the very ministry of Jesus our Saviour. These little things can make a difference in your church. They can create a friendly environment in your church and the church will be more attractive to the visitors and your congregation will be a community where people can experience the meaning of true Christian friendship and fellowship.

Joel Sarli is an Associate Secretary of the Ministerial Association of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.