The Welcoming Church
I have received a message from a past
congregational member who wishes to remain anonymous, but wanted me to share their message. I miss the congregation I once belonged to (Hope) and haven't found a congregation in the Fox Valley area that I am comfortable with yet. It is so difficult when you walk into a strange church and no one says good morning to you. Yes, everyone shakes hands and offers their blessing when prompted by the pastor to do so, but that is not enough for me, so I am struggling to find a new church. I do go to church at different places and different denominations, but still do not "fit in.” I will keep trying. Please mention to the congregation that they are a friendly congregation and make visitors welcome - it is important for visitors to know that, so keep up the good work. It was a pleasure/honor to be asked to be on the council for 6 years under Pastor Becker's leadership, serve as a Sunday school teacher, and truly enjoyed playing with the bell choir. Thank you and good luck on your expansion project. A member of God's family!
Let us not take for granted our guests, new members or anyone who enters our church or community. Continue to extend your hand, share a warm greeting, and ask genuine questions to get to know someone who is not familiar to you or is not in your circle of acquaintances. I am convinced that if we practice that just a few minutes during our worship time or during our week, we will see Christ’s love embodied wherever we go. Some tips from our own ELCA.org website say that dealing with a new comer is crucial. If your goal is to welcome them and have them return on a regular basis, we need to be aware of some common pitfalls:
- Greetings can be tricky. When mega-church founder Bill Hybels surveyed the neighborhood before establishing the Willow Creek ministry, he found that people do not like to be singled out when visiting a church. It makes them feel awkward. Therefore, refrain from calling too much attention to visitors. Don’t make them stand up in front of the congregation and don’t make them wear a name tag.
- As territorial creatures, we are very particular about where we sit. If you arrive at worship to find a visitor in the seat you’ve been occupying every Sunday since 1972, do not give the occupant the evil
- Jargon in your vocabulary can be intimidating. Some people new to worship may not know what certain words (like “narthex”) mean.
- Be helpful to those next to you. Let them know you are a friend who can help them in the worship service. If you notice that someone has lost his or her place while trying to follow the service offer your assistance.
Let us practice welcoming the guest and continue to work at being a welcoming congregation.