I think we all assume that our church is friendly. After all, we get to talk to so many people when we arrive and even as we are leaving. Everyone knows us and we know them – it’s warm, comfortable and friendly.
But we wrongly assume that a new person walking in the door gets the same reception. Often, the same folks that will talk your ear off won’t speak a word to someone they don’t already know. Too often, we do the exact same thing – rushing to get the kids to nursery or to hit the parking lot before the crowd we don’t speak to the new face.
And next week, that face is gone.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I think we all already know that – but how to fix it?
First off, we need to do a little soul searching – do we want new people to join our church or not? The pastor does – it’s in his job description – and we know we are supposed to want everyone to come to Christ – but do we really wanna deal with some new guy that just doesn’t fit in?
If the answer is no, we don’t, your church has a much deeper spiritual problem. If the answer is yes, although we hate to admit that we don’t like it, you’re on the track back to spiritual health. If it is yes, darn it, why aren’t we acting like it? then this post is for you. The YES!!! crowd already has the ‘whole congregation welcome committee’ and needs no help.
So, why aren’t you acting like it? Habit is probably your biggest enemy here. But it’s not the only one. Committee-itis – the disease of thinking that every function in a church has to be conducted by the appropriate committee is another enemy. Along with ‘it’s not my job’ and ‘I’m not a people person’, these are the ‘friendliness killers’ in most churches today.
Habit: Takes three weeks to establish a habit – so start now. You normally arrive, look for your friends, look for a bulletin, look for a seat and sit. Not a lot of time to notice those new faces around you – and no intentional effort to do so. So, arrive, grab bulletin, look around for new faces, say hi, and then look for your friends and finally sit – very similar to your old habit so it’s not hard to make the change but very different in effect. New people feel welcomed when we take the time just to say hi – and maybe point out the way to the nursery or that one pew everyone avoids because the air will turn you blue if you sit there. Take a few seconds, makes a big difference.
Committee-itis: Committees have their place – and if they aren’t getting the job done, that place is elsewhere. I have filled out innumerable pew pads with name, address, email, and phone. I have gotten exactly two cards – period. If your church is collecting information it should be using it – so find out what the committee in charge actually does with that information. If nothing – or the committee died years ago and the pew pads didn’t – it’s past time to make some changes. You don’t have to serve on that committee to bring the problem respectfully to the attention of the pastor, the committee and even the congregation.
Further, if you think you have to be on the Welcome Committee to say hi to new people you have a really bad case of committee-itis. The committee is to facilitate – not to do all the work. Where welcome and friendliness are concerned everyone needs to be on the job, not just the committee.
“It’s not my job” – let me ask you, have you read this really famous book called ‘The Bible’? If not, I strongly recommend it. If so, you already know that it is too your job. Welcoming others is just a form of service – if your Lord can wash feet, you can say hi to the new guy with the weird haircut. Deal with it.
“I’m not a people person” – okay, so what? No one is asking you to provide family counselling or to take them home with you and entertain them. Just say ‘hi, glad to see you this morning. My name is _________.” They will respond politely in 99.99999% of cases and the worst that happens is that they ask a question and you have to admit you don’t have kids and have no idea where the nursery is – but hang on while I flag down someone who does. Talk. To. Them. Heck, while you’re at it, talk to other people too – fellowship is part of what you’re supposed to be there for!
The restaurant will be there when you get there and waiting for a table will not kill you. Take a few moments to speak to the new folks on the way out. You don’t know how hard it was for them to walk into your church – don’t make it easy for them to want to walk out. Fellowship goes hand in hand with worship – we are relational. We relate first to God and then to each other. That is true whether we already know people or not. Talk. To. People. New people, old people, orange people, blue people – whatever kind God sends through your church’s doors, make sure they know that in His house, they are welcome – and wanted.