Making newcomers feel at home in church means everything.
Published on: 06-01-2020
The sudden English rainfall was so heavy I couldn’t see where I was going. I finally arrived at the small guesthouse soaking wet, plastered in mud, and fighting back tears of exhaustion and frustration.
The door opened. My host welcomed me with a smile, wiped off my suitcase, and took it to my room. “Never you mind, young lady, we’re here to welcome whoever comes through our doors, no matter how messy they are!” It was one of the best welcomes I’ve ever had.
I’ve wondered, what would happen if everyone were welcomed as warmly as this in all our churches every week?
FROM THE HEART OF GOD
Every genuine welcome starts in the heart of God’s love. When we focus on God’s incredible love for us, and His free acceptance of us no matter how messy we are, our hearts become more open to accepting others.
Jesus warmly accepted such messy people with imperfect lives as Zacchaeus, the woman caught in adultery, the woman at Jacob’s well, diseased lepers, and lots of noisy, sticky children. Paul tells us to reflect on how Jesus has accepted us, so that we can truly understand what it means to accept others (Rom. 15:7). He tells us to treat everyone equally, and with the greatest respect, whatever their age, gender, ethnicity, status, and dress (Rom. 12:10, 16).
BREAKING DOWN BARRIERS
Most of us have some barriers in our lives: attitudes and fears that hold us back from welcoming others generously. I’m an introvert, and it can be really hard for me to meet new people. So I have to make a conscious decision to step forward and greet strangers.
What are your barriers, and what do you need to do about them? Read Psalm 103 and list all the ways that God lovingly welcomes you. Let His love transform the way you think about others, so you can lovingly welcome a new person into your community, just as Jesus did.
HOW CAN I MAKE YOUR VISIT SPECIAL?
Think about a time you felt especially welcomed. Share your ideas with others in your church and explore how you could offer the best possible welcome in your church. Imagine how Jesus might welcome people if He were one of your greeters.
After greeting visitors, personalize their welcome: “What can I do to make your visit today comfortable and special?” Maybe they’d like to sit quietly at the back, or to have someone to sit with them who is trained to guide visitors through the service. Listen to their needs and try to meet them in the best way possible. When you arrive shivering in subzero temperatures, it’s comforting to be offered a hot drink. Not all your visitors will have eaten breakfast. Providing a basket of fruit or a tray of healthy snacks shows that you care about their physical needs as well as their spiritual ones.
EXPLAIN YOUR WORSHIP SERVICE
Explain and introduce your church services every week. Those leading out in the service should always tell people when to stand, sit, or kneel, and explain clearly what to do during the foot-washing and Communion services. Unexpected parts of the service can be very uncomfortable for visitors when they realize that everyone, except them, knows exactly what to do. Respect a visitor’s choice to sit and observe.
WELCOME CHILDREN TOO
Welcome visiting children as warmly as Jesus did. Provide something child-friendly in every service so they feel involved in the program. When you win children’s hearts, you win the hearts of their parents. Children are not wired to sit still and be quiet for long periods, and they can find doing so distressing. So welcome them by providing bags of quiet Sabbath toys to use during the service.
THE MOST IMPORTANT TEST
I have a friend who has two simple goals for each person who comes through the door of his church each week: by the time they leave the building they need to experience the God who loves them unconditionally, along with at least one other member who also accepts them without conditions. Loving God and loving others are the two key principles of his congregation. His church flourishes and grows because people feel loved and welcome.
The warm welcome of God’s love is irresistible. Let it flow through you into the hearts of everyone you meet, at church and in your everyday life. Make it possible for new faces to want to come back and experience that amazing love all over again, week after week.