Have you ever crashed a wedding? a family reunion? a birthday party? That’s a lot like how it can feel when visiting a church for the first time. Or first eight.
Ugh, it can be really uncomfortable visiting a church. It feels like everyone there knows each other (even though that’s irrational) and is ignoring you even though you have sneaked in somehow (nothing rational about it, I know)
Today, I want to encourage an important part of corporate worship: greeting visitors.
After eighteen years at the same church, one of the toughest parts of our move was finding a new church home. We still feel new there and a bit unconnected because it takes awhile for relationships to be made. We have two precious family friends at this church, thankfully, but feeling a part of the congregation takes more time than that.
I believe that we are called to more than just sit next to people on Sunday morning, but instead we are to develop a community within the church we attend. When someone visits a community, they are noticed. Or at least they should be. And that deserves recognition.
When visiting a church, being greeted by others can make a huge difference. Huge. Humongous. Gigantic.
So much so that sometimes people stop coming. If they aren’t greeted the first time, they hate it, but usually risk attending again. If they aren’t personally welcomed the second time, it doesn’t bode well. Third time, usually they try a different church. (these stats are from Mindy Brouse, professor of church visitor stats)
I know that shyness (not to be confused with introvertedness) is a hindrance to greeting visitors.
I know that discomfort (not to be confused with actual pain) is a hindrance to starting a conversation with strangers.
I know that unfamiliarity with a person (not knowing if they are a visitor or not) is an hindrance for church introductions.
BUT I also know what it feels like to sit in a church body during corporate worship and feel out of place. Sadly, I also know what it’s like to not be greeted by others.
That just shouldn’t be so within the Body of Christ.
We have to step outside ourselves, our selfishness, to extend a loving hand to our brothers and sisters in Christ (and we should assume they are so, until we hear otherwise).
They have come to worship with us.
Let’s risk introducing ourselves to another member. I’ve actually done that. The woman was pretty snippy saying, “I’ve been going here for six months!” I just smiled and said, “Well, do you know my name?” She didn’t and I just explained, “It’s hard to meet people sometimes. I’m glad you’re here!” Learning more members’ names isn’t a bad thing.
Let’s risk sounding uncomfortable. As a person who has visited churches several times now, let me say that I’d rather an awkward greeting than none at all. If you are shy, then make it brief. Even consider having a little script of some kind. Just smile, ask their names, say something about being glad they are there, and get some contact information.
Let’s risk making someone’s day. Most church members can name the first people who greeted them. They can certainly recall the first families to have them over for dinner or lunch. I know it’s not easy to invite strangers into your home, but consider it. At the very least, get their phone number to meet somewhere for coffee or park, if they have kiddos (more on this next week).
You are important to visitors because you are the face of the church. You are the hands and feet of Christ. Be the one who makes a difference in a visitor’s life!
Greet, chat with, and even reach out to a visitor (or a few) at church today! Can you name who the first people who connected with you were?