Don’t you hate going to church? Well, a new church, that is. We know we want to go, but it’s so easy to give in when our mind gets filled with worries about being the new kid on the block. What do they believe? What do they wear? What are they like? Who are they anyway?
Rationally, we know that they are people just like us. We know that we are all God’s children no matter what we look like, what we wear, where we sit or how we sound. Right? Sure. Try telling that to yourself when you’ve just moved away from everything you’ve known for over thirty years. Yikes!
Being new in town and trying to become part of an established group is daunting to say the least. Nothing can make you feel like a lowly fifth grader approaching middle school for the first time more than making those long, slow steps up to the front door of a new church.
What can we do to make fellow believers and non-believers alike feel not only welcome, but at-home at our church? To begin with, we can pray. Asking God to show us how we can be used by him is not only a first step, but the most important one as well. We would be wise to begin any community outreach with prayer. Following prayer, we must put ourselves in the shoes of those we are trying to reach. What did you think and feel when you first came to church? If you’ve been attending the same church for so long you can’t remember, consider yourself blessed, and then think about how you felt when you started a new job or a new school.
We all have a desire to fit in and be accepted. One thing members of the community may want to know is what style of dress is appropriate. I know some churches where what to wear isn’t an issue at all-then there are others where the least blunder with wardrobe is a major scandal. Regardless of the protocol at your church, newcomers must be treated with love and respect.
Are children at your church expected to attend a children’s church or nursery? If so, make this information clear to visitors. Announcements in the church bulletin are a great way to pass along this information. Additionally, ushers or greeters who politely inform visitors that children’s church or a nursery are available along with the location of these programs works as well.
If your church passes out information cards to visitors to be completed and returned, by all means follow through with any requests made by the visitor. If your visitor indicates that they would like more information on a particular program, church membership, or salvation, by all means, talk to them! Can you imagine how disappointing it can be to muster the courage to not only go to a new church, but ask for this information, only to never hear from anyone?
One of the easiest and most important ways to make visitors feel welcome is to talk to them. Feeling shy? Rest assured-you aren’t the only one! See someone who you aren’t sure if they are a visitor or not? You certainly have nothing to lose by talking to them anyway. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll get to know someone better! Worried you won’t remember their name? That’s OK, it’s likely they won’t remember yours either. The one thing they will remember is that you talked to them.
Taking time to pray for, visit with, and talk to visitors are activities that are well worth your time. After all, Jesus commands us to love our neighbor, right? Consider serving on a visitation team, welcoming committee, or just going up and talking to someone with an unfamiliar face next Sunday. I guarantee you’ll be blessed!