The friendliness of a church can make or break it for visitors.
After a recent move, my family and I visited a few nearby churches. Some excelled at being friendly; others failed miserably.
When we visited a mega church, no one greeted us at our arrival. When we stopped by the welcome desk to present ourselves as guests, no one offered to help us navigate their large campus or direct us to the service. After worship, no one spoke to us at their coffee and donut reception. Everyone remained huddled in separate circles. They looked happy enough, but they weren’t friendly.
Because we didn’t make any connections that day, we didn’t return.
I hope that first-time guests to my current church want to return because they’ve made connections with others, and most importantly THE Person that life is all about. I hope guests feel wanted, like they belong, and that they have space to serve.
And while I realize that ‘church’ is what you make it, there are a few things I can do as a church member to ensure guests get the right impression about our community of faith.
4 Ways to be Missional Inside Church Walls.
1. Be aware
Don’t expect your church’s greeters or welcome committee to catch every visitor that steps inside your door. So, keep your eyes open for new faces. Pray for God to show you opportunities to speak to people – regardless of church size.
2. Be active
Be intentional to meet first-time guests. Set a goal to speak to one new person each Sunday. Imagine the ministry you could provide your church and the encouragement you could give guests if you’re ‘on mission’ this way.
3. Be approachable
Once you spot a new face, make yourself easy to approach. If you’re huddled in a corner, arrive late and/or leave the service early, you’ll have fewer chances to connect with others. You have to be present to live out the Great Commission.
4. Be available
I don’t have a problem being present or on schedule, but I do have a problem with being available. Most Sundays I’m wrangling energetic boys and juggling teaching materials (I help out in the preschool room). To outsiders, I’m sure I look like a chicken with my head cut off. But I hope in spite of the busyness that I can remember to stop and take a breath. If not for my own sanity, then simply to open myself for any divine appointment God might have waiting. Being available is an act of trust for me.
Not sure what to say to people? I struggle with that, too! Here are a few conversation starters I’ve used that work:
* Meet-and-greet: “Hey, thank you for coming today. It was great to have you!”
* Info central: “It’s great to have you today. Is this your first time to attend?” (If it is, don’t just
tell them where to go, SHOW them! Then, you can talk as you walk. Try to introduce
guests to their teacher if you’re directing them to a class).
* The follow-up: “Did you enjoy the service today?” (If they mention they liked a specific
thing, then bring it back to the church. Provide them with more information or info on
an upcoming event.)
* The classic intro: “I don’t think we’ve met yet. My name is ______” (Then, continue with
any other question listed here).
Sometimes it doesn’t really matter what you say, just being friendly and approachable says volumes. If you do get the chance to speak, be sure to invite them back.
Another church we visited did all these things I’ve mentioned. They greeted us in the parking lot and showed us where to park. They walked us into the building (taking my two-year-old by the hand because my hands were full) and introduced us to the nursery workers. They welcomed us during and after the service, even extending an invitation to join them for lunch.
God didn’t lead us to join that church, but they encouraged and blessed us.
Being friendly isn't simply a matter of an efficient church organization; it’s a matter of a healthy church culture. Every church member must be ‘on mission’ every day, especially on Sundays. Being missional at church starts with me.
Melissa Deming is the creator of HiveResources.com–a site that helps women sweeten their walk with Christ through devotional articles, book reviews, and more. Melissa holds a Masters of Divinity in Women's Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wake Forest, N.C. She and her husband, Jonathan, have four-year-old twins, Zach and Jonah. They are part of the core team of a new church plant in Pittsburgh.
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