This post originally published on a previously-owned blog and was imported here to simplify my life. Please excuse any confusion due to this merge. I hope you enjoy the content!
If you know me very well, you know this is kinda my thing.
I’m not sure if it’s a curse, a gift or just something I’ve become passionate about, but I can’t help but walk into any gathering and see it with a “new person’s eyes.” Whether it’s a Christian gathering like church or a Bible study or whether it’s just a bunch of moms at the park, it’s the filter I can’t remove from my vision.
Specifically concerning church services and other Christian gatherings, it seems vital to me to make sure people want to come back. What’s the point if people don’t come back?
Little things can make a huge difference
Some of these are out of our control, but many scenarios, ways of doing things, ways of training our workers or even décor are things of which we have total control. (By the way, when I say “we,” I am talking about fellow church members and/or leadership.)
I just recently saw a short article tweeted about visitor retention. Of course it caught my eye! Written for the already-established church members, the writer (Susan Malphurs) helps one see what one might not see due to habit. You may have gone to your church for so long you have stopped noticing certain rips in the carpet or smells in the nursery. It’s just the way things are, right?
As Susan travels for their ministry, she has the unique experience to see “from the new person’s eyes” all the time. See her full bullet list of examples of things that have caught her attention.
There are so many issues in our world, friends. I know you know. The Syria numbers we keep reading this week are smothering. The laws changing in the USA for things that don’t even make sense to my mind are overwhelming. Even just the heaviness of life for those who don’t have the Living Hope to guide them is too real for most people around us. We have an opportunity (and an obligation) to provide a comfortable place for all.
How can YOU help someone feel more welcome in your church?
It may not be “all” in the little things, but
there sure is “a lot” in the little things…
Are you a part of the tech team? How terribly outdated is your website?
Are you a part of the children’s ministry? What would a new mama in a new city be looking for before they hand over their precious child?
Are you a college student? Keep your eyes peeled for new people your age – they’ll respond best to you!
Are you a parent of a teen? Are you making yourself available to potential visitors who have teenagers so as to connect your families as soon as possible?
And the list goes on…
(Side note: for further reading on this subject, geared more for the leaders in the church, I also enjoyed this article by Thom Rainer. It’s a quick summary on one of his recent podcasts on increasing guest friendliness.)
Church is for all people…
…Not just those already accustomed to the traditions and phrases. It’s a personal burden of mine to help my fellow Christians see through this filter of the “new person’s eyes.” Do flowers make your sanctuary look like a funeral home? Are you always making a beeline toward your best friend during the greeting time? Do you use acronyms only known by long-timers in your denomination?
We’re never going to make everyone happy – I intimately get that. All of us have different opinions on how things should be run, what order the service should go in, what the pastor should be wearing, what color the walls should be and so on. Additionally, if you’re acting in obedience and doing all you can to welcome people but their hearts and attitudes aren’t right, there’s not much more you can do in this area. But what are the little things that you can do – what can you change in your heart and your habits to make that new person want to come back?
Oh, a crazy idea…
What if you took off one Sunday a year to go to another church? I mean, make sure it’s a Biblically-sound church and seek out ones that appear to be growing – but what better way to put yourself in the position of the uncomfortable, unknowing, unaccustomed new person?
There’s also an important word of caution needed here. Some churches go so terrifically far to correct these issues – making their spaces, their words from the platform and their music style so hip – that there’s no depth. No follow-up.
My husband and I moved to a new city recently and tried a church that, from their website, seemed Biblically sound. The second thing we always look for (and found with this one) is that it answered “yes” to our constant question: “Does it appear like a church we would want to invite a friend to?”
So we went there for a short while. Everything was great. You walked in to a clean and organized environment. People smiled and greeted at you, there were signs pointing the way to wherever you wanted, the sanctuary was modern with concrete floors and all the seemingly best equipment, etc.
And they talked about the new person. Oh boy, did they… Every leader that had the floor at some point invited us to give them their information and assured us in at least a dozen ways how important we were, how they wanted to connect with us, how they would donate in our name if we just signed up for something, etc. It was exciting!
But there was no follow-up. We didn’t receive a single phone call or email! Their website or brochures from the welcome desk had zero information on small groups, “between Sunday” activities, what they believe about baptism or things like that. It seemed too far on the spectrum of being welcoming. That’s all they did.
So there’s a balance.
And a whole lot more we could talk about!
Does this stir any feelings inside of you? Do you have a small group or a specific team with which you could discuss this topic?
Lastly, if you made it this far, here are a couple interesting articles I’ve found related to this topic:
I am praying that God continues to guide you and me both in this area – that we will be able to eliminate anything that hinders us from reaching new people for Jesus. Let’s not permit trivial matters to clog up the already-narrow path to heaven. We can do this!