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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9/4/2013 11:35:50 am
I've just recently had this same experience with a church who failed miserably at being hospitable. You are so right, it makes a huge difference.
10/23/2013 04:21:46 am
Shelly, yes! We all want a friendly church, but are we willing to be the ones to step outside of our comfort zone to make it happen? It is so hard to do! ~Melissa
9/5/2013 11:57:43 pm
Even when we're just visiting a church on vacation, it's great to feel welcomed. These are some good suggestions that we really need to put into consistent practice.
10/23/2013 04:22:22 am
Elizabeth, Thanks for stopping by!
9/12/2013 03:14:53 am
Thank you for your wise and kind words.
10/23/2013 04:23:48 am
Birdy & Bambi - thanks for stopping by and reading. Please let us know how we can affirm your journey of faith. There is a lot of good reading here at the Missional Women site. But you are welcome to email us directly any time! ~Melissa
10/21/2013 12:24:04 pm
Yes, we are to be on mission every day. God has put each of us right where we are, right now, for a reason, for His purpose. Do we miss the call or do we step out in faith?
10/23/2013 04:25:40 am
Laura - I think sometimes we don't feel the need to be missional at church. We make the assumption that at church, everyone already knows Christ. But you're right - stepping out of faith happens right where we are! Blessings~Melissa
You are so right! Feeling connected is so important. We have no reason to go back if we don't feel welcome. I'm starting to help out with youth group and am realizing how even more it is important here, if the kids come and don't feel connected to anyone they are not going to come back. And some need this time so much. Great reminders!
10/23/2013 04:27:41 am
For sure, Alecia! It is even harder to train some youth to be 'friendly' and outgoing, especially when they might be in the awkward stage or a shy stage. But it is so key. We have to start training our kids and students to think missionally - right where they are! Thanks for joining in the discussion! ~Melissa
10/25/2013 08:56:52 am
Sometimes I think it may have been a blessing in disguise that I grew up out of the church and came in later in life. I think it makes it easier for me to grasp what it is like to be on the outside looking in - and sensitive to both those just coming in, as well as the blindspots of those who have been around a long time. I struggled a bit for awhile with understanding God's will for me in this...such balance remaining sensitive to those coming in while not ignoring the needs of those hurting and seeking from among us. His Spirit to lead. Grace and Truth and HIs SPirit are the only way to " succeed ". Great post and points.
10/28/2013 04:20:25 am
Yes, Dawn! so thankful for the wisdom that comes from individuals with a first-hand knowledge of what it's like to be searching for grace. I grew up in church and have benefited so much from the encouraging and insightful words of friends who found God's love later. Blessings to you! ~Melissa
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