Dictionary.com defines speed dating as an organized social activity in which people seeking romantic relationships have a series of short conversations with potential partners in order to determine whether there is mutual interest.

At Covenant’s Explore Membership classes, Visitor and New Member Coordinator Amy Skaggs takes this dating concept in a different direction. As part of the four new member classes she holds each year, attendees engage in speed dating – Covenant style. Small groups of new members meet for about 5 minutes with each of 10 different veteran members who are instrumental in key programs and ministries.

“Participants love our speed dating activity,” Amy said. “They leave knowing more about service  and participation opportunities at Covenant and around Austin, and they get to meet the people at Covenant who are involved. It’s an all-around win for everyone!”

Speed dating is just one of several activities during Explore Membership. Participants learn how Covenant is living out its mission: “Encouraging one another to follow Jesus wherever we live, work, and play.” The class is structured to follow the three practices of solitude, community and service. Each week, the group focuses on one of the practices and discusses it during small group time.

“Those who have taken our Explore Membership class this past year have given us very positive feedback,” Amy said. They agree Covenant is a friendly church. A group of new members recently shared their experiences with deacons. “When you’re a new person at Covenant, you’re a magnet for people,” new member Erica Mann told them. “It was almost overwhelming. It felt like we were wanted. People were interested to know us and know our story.”

Corie Rodenbusch said she felt the warmth of Covenant. “We committed because of the general friendliness of members. Their approach and interactions told me that people know each other, and if we come here, we will be known, too.”

Participants also connect with each other and the small group time helps facilitate that, Amy said. “When leaving the class, our new members have friendly faces to check in with on Sunday morning and sometimes during the week as well. That’s my favorite thing about Explore Membership—the relationships that are made within the class.

“I think new members share that perspective. They leave feeling like they have made connections at Covenant as well as having ways in which they can jump in and serve. And with our emphasis on our key practices, attendees are also leaving with a sense of what it means to encourage one another to follow Jesus where they live, work and play.”

That structure was part of what made Covenant feel familiar to Erica. “My husband and I came from a Presbyterian church and had a great experience. The teaching was similar, challenging and convicting.”

New member Evie Kling felt the same. “I craved something that felt familiar. Covenant is similar to the church I grew up in. It felt homey, and I felt welcomed in and known by folks. The pastor knew my name!”

The group did give some critical feedback. One area the church needs to develop is groups for young adults, they said. In an answer to that request, Covenant will hold Young Adult Brunches this fall. The first brunch will be Sunday, Sept. 29, after the late worship services. Contact Kathryn Sedberry to learn more. 

There’s no standard Explore Membership participant. They are intergenerational and Amy loves that. “Relationships that have developed in the class between the different generations have been so rewarding to witness,” she said.

If you are thinking about “exploring membership,” Covenant will offer a class four Sundays in September (Sept. 8, 15, 22, 29) from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m. in FE 107. Learn more by contacting Amy Skaggs or sign up on Realm.  

Amy, by the way, is pretty easy to talk to and, apparently, she’s good with names. New member Dan Hart praised her ability to quickly make people feel welcome. “I think Amy knew my name before I told her what it was,” he said.