A Welcoming Church
Visitors are a blessing for every congregation. Most local visitors are looking for the missing relationship in their lives and a family of Christians can answer their need.
How can congregation begin to make a connection with visitors? Sit where visitors sit [Ez. 3:15] and hear the terminology used. Are they unintentionally isolated because of phrases such as "gospel meeting"? This may mean nothing to a non-Christian. Other examples may be communion, Lord's Supper, denomination, going forward, heresy, deacon, elder, or even gospel.
Now consider thinking about seeing things through the eyes of a first-time visitor. Impressions are very important! What impression do we make?
- Is the building inviting?
- Is the visitor parking conveniently located?
- Are the parking lot and lawn clean and neat?
- Does a friendly face greet them at the door?
- Once inside is there anyone to assist in finding classes?
- Is there assistance in finding a seat?
- Does it seem safe?
- Are signs and information up-to-date and attractive?
- Will a member create an awkward situation about "MY Seat"?
- Do members smile and invite them to sit with them?
Becoming a "welcoming" church only happens when every member is involved in making a strong favorable impression. [Mt. 5:16]
- Put your best foot forward.
- Make that foot shine.
- Put a smile on your face.
- Put warmth in your heart.
- Invite folks to come and then be ready when they show up.
Every congregation has "chemistry," it can be good, bad, or indifferent. A sense of "strong chemistry" can encourage a visitor to make a return visit or seek help for the void in their life elsewhere. What does a strong positive chemistry look like?
- Friends who like each other
If, before and after services, people are engaged in conversation, smiles, hugs and laughter fills the air, strong positive chemistry is present. If it looks like a fire drill when amen is said, chemistry is absent.
- Expressions of genuine concern for each other
"Fellowship — we are fellows in the ship, traveling together," (Charles Orr) enduring the same problems. You can see the absence of a positive chemistry when people are alone in a crowd, sitting in the pews with people known only by their name. Chemistry is missing when a person won't reach out to others. People seek to make a connection; if they cannot find it here, they will look elsewhere. Then they will fail to benefit from the powerful network of fellow believers who can support, encourage, and strengthen them. Make yourself available to people so they can get to know you and care for you. A key ingredient is the manner in which we reach out and allow ourselves to knit to one another.
- Transparency and openness
Secrets kill positive chemistry in marriage and fellowship.
- Strong churches can be any size
The attitude of the shepherds, spirit of the sermons, and a solid connection with the flock sets the tone, temperature, and chemistry of the congregation. This is demonstrated by the attitudes, examples, and the way leadership deals with people. Leaders can be warm and helpful or distant and rude; each affects the chemistry of the group.
Although appearances of the facilities can affect the first impression a visitor may have, chemistry is more important. How one is treated makes more of an impression than church activities, ornately decorated lobbies, or flamboyant speakers. Without the showing of genuine concern people will not stay.
Once inside, warmly welcomed and seated, the next step is to provide an easy-to-follow pattern of worship that will enhance the experience of a first-time visitor. Using the PowerPoint screen as a guide through the worship hour activities will make a visitor more comfortable and receptive to the gospel. When presented in a clear concise manner the power of the gospel will be on full display. If the sermon is confusing or not edifying some may miss the learning opportunity and not return.
What can YOU do to make your group a "Welcoming Congregation"?