Remember the first time you visited a new church and how awkward you felt not knowing anyone? This experience is not unique to you and may be one of the reasons people stop coming to church or keep shopping for one that makes them feel welcome.
During a visit with old friends from a church I pastored 23 years ago I was surprised and disappointed at the stories I was told of family members who had such an experience. Of most concern were stories like this one:
“Our son and daughter-in-law decided they would like their children to experience Sabbath School as they had done when they were children. So they went to an Adventist church near where they lived. They walked in, took their children to Sabbath School, and walked out. Tragically, no-one had spoken to them. So they decided to go to the local Baptist church where they were welcomed and made to feel wanted. Today their children are enjoying Sunday School and our son and daughter-in-law are now actively involved in this church.”
I heard the same story more than once over the weekend. It forced me to ask, “How aware are we of new persons entering our churches? Are we missing an easy opportunity to reconnect people with Jesus and our Church?”
I know many of our churches work hard at welcoming visitors but how effective are we at this and can we do better?
Research indicates that most visitors have decided whether or not to return to your church before the worship service has begun. While clean and attractive entry spaces increase the likelihood of a favourable impression, the most important thing is the friendliness of the members.
Making visitors feel welcome must be an important goal for our Church. After all, our churches are not just for our benefit. They play a part in sharing the good news of Jesus by
providing an opportunity to meet and greet those who visit.