Do you remember the first time you went to church? Or maybe you relocated and had to find a new church. What was your experience like as a first-time guest? How did people treat you? Do you remember those that greeted you, shook your hand and made you feel a part? I bet you do. Don’t you want to be one of those people? The Bible, even in Old Testament law, talks a lot about practicing hospitality to guests:
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” Matthew 25:40
We’ve all been a newcomer at some point. Treat others like you would want to be treated.
“So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:34
We want visiters to become members. We want them to stick around, to get involved, to become part of our church community. As followers of Christ, we are called to be a part of the body of Christ. It’s our job to encourage newcomers to stay, to be friendly and let them know we want them to be a part of our church family. Here are 10 ways to make guests feel welcome at church:
- Look for new faces. Make it the first thing you do during greeting time. Introduce yourself, ask questions, learn about their children – make them feel welcome and extend hospitality. The most important person to make visitors feel welcome is you. Not the pastor, a staff member, or the greeter. People know that people in those positions “have” to greet them. They want to hear from the regular church member.
- Remember their name. I once heard someone say that everyone’s favorite word is their name. People want to be known.
- Smile. This one may seem obvious. Especially for those of you who are shy, a smile can go a long way. It implies that you are happy they are there.
- Introduce them to others. Once you meet them, try to connect them with other people who have similar interests, live in their neighborhood or have kids their age. This makes them feel more a part and helps them become more comfortable in a new environment.
- Get them involved. Invite them to church fellowships, Sunday school or other church activities. A few years ago I realized the importance of inviting others to church activities. We host a bible study at our house a few Sunday evenings a month. I distinctly remember a time a few when I specifically invited a family to the bible study and…they came! When I asked why they hadn’t been coming, they said, “Because we were never invited.” We are all aware that church activities are open to everyone – everyone is invited. But sometimes, people want to know that they are wanted somewhere, they want to be personally invited.
- Be their tour guide at church. Help guests find their way to Sunday School, the restroom, the nursery, etc. It may be familiar to you, but it is not to them. Visiting a new church is like engaging in a new culture. Help them quickly get over the initial culture shock hump and escort them where they need to go.
- Connect outside of church. Whether it’s dinner at your house, a girls night with friends, or a work-out group, invite guests to be a part of your community, inside and outside of the church.
- Never let people sit alone. A family may take up an entire row, but a couple or a single person wants to feel like they belong. Suggest a place for them to sit or offer them the spot next to you.
- Pray for guests throughout the week. Prayer is a powerful thing.
- Be yourself. Make new friends. You offer something no one else does. Make guests feel like church is their home.
We get a lot of re-do’s in life, but one thing we never get a second-chance at is a first impression.
“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13