Signs and Events—or Relationships?

Updated: Apr 26

All of our community outreach centers around a church, a Vietnamese congregation, that meets in the basement of a large, mostly-white church. Outside the building stands a little sign. The sign says, “Vietnamese Lutheran Fellowship” in Vietnamese script. Placing the sign in front of the building was one of the first things that our host congregation wanted to do when we moved in. They thought the sign would attract other Vietnamese people to come to church there.

I knew that wasn’t going to work. In fact, in 13 years we haven’t had a single Vietnamese person come to our church because of the sign. Why? Because Vietnamese people don’t do walk-ins. They won’t come to a strange building where they know nobody just because they saw a sign saying, “Welcome!” As far as we were concerned, the only purpose of the sign was to let non-Vietnamese people know where we were—so they could call us for help if they knew a Vietnamese person in trouble.