Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it! Hebrews 13:2 NLT
All churches are friendly! Just ask any church and they will likely tell you they are indeed the friendliest church in town. It is rare when I am working with a church that most of the congregation wouldn’t feel this is their current understanding of their church culture. While this may be true, it is often true only if you are an insider. That is, you are a regular attendee who is known and has been around for quite some time. In other words, typical congregants are very friendly to those who are already gathered, but struggle more in being friendly with those who are new faces. This is not intentional, but we naturally migrate to people we already know and have a connection with. But, of course, this leaves a new person feeling isolated, disconnected, and often either ignored, invisible, or put on display.
How does a church overcome this common guest-readiness challenge? It starts with a shift in culture of the congregation. It starts by flipping what we have come to believe Sunday morning is about on its head. We often come to the Sunday morning experience thinking about what is in it for me. Congregations and specifically mature disciples who have a culture of guest-readiness come to the Sunday morning experience with the excitement, expectation, responsibility, and honor of preparing for and receiving new people. It is the difference of perspective and purpose. It is the difference of showing up looking for familiar faces or showing up looking for new friends. It is the difference of showing up to serve or showing up to be served. This is true whether it is onsite worship or online worship.
We have all been in the circumstance at one time or another where we have been placed in a new circumstance with new people. Those first few minutes, first impressions, set the stage for the entire experience. These first few minutes can break the ice and put you at ease or cause a sense of awkwardness and dread for the rest of the experience.
How is your church receiving and welcoming new people? Are they being noticed right away and welcomed? Are we showing interest in him/her without being overwhelming? Are we more interested in their story or our own? Are we trying to understand their needs and connect with them to meet those needs or are we simply trying to sell them on why they “need” to be a part of us (our congregation)?
Gather your leaders together and ask these questions of one another. What are three steps your church can take this fall in creating a culture of guest readiness? Start the shift in culture of guest readiness today!