Dozens of visitor parking spots and an open invitation to communion are two ways that Santa Maria de Guadalupe Lutheran lets newcomers know they are welcome.
"Many have not been able to take communion in the Catholic Church for 20 years because of a second marriage," says the Rev. Pedro Portillo. "They don't feel they can participate in the community because they have been discriminated against, are not married to their partner, or are divorced."
Weddings, baptisms, and quinceaneras celebrating a girl's 15th birthday bring a constant flow of new people into the church. There, a team of leaders helps connect them to opportunities for worship, education and service.
The evangelization group welcomes newcomers, helps them find seats and works to connect their talents with appropriate ministries. Twenty teachers help with Sunday school, first communion, and confirmation classes. One teacher offers classes in her home. An intergenerational vacation Bible school offers learning and recreation for children, their parents and their grandparents.
Twice-monthly inquirer classes draw about 40 participants. "We don't talk about membership but discipleship, the need to work together as one community, one people who read the same gospel," says Pastor Portillo.
Pastor Portillo urges Santa Maria disciples to serve in the PTA and other community groups including safety training by local police and firefighters.
With so many opportunities to live out their faith, it's no wonder that 1,200 people worship every Sunday in Santa Maria de Guadalupe's new sanctuary.
"People in the congregation talk about the church in invite others. I never knock on doors. I don't need to."