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Becoming A Welcoming Church - Part 5

Over the next several weeks I want to wrap up our discussion of "Becoming a Welcoming Church." Today I want to list several myths author Thom Rainer brings to our attention:

1. Everyone knows where our church is.
2. Our church is small. We don't need signs for people to get around.
3. Church websites are not that important.

I bet most of us disagree with #1 if for no other reason than we are relocating to a new community. Some of us may not know where our church will be! And because it is a new building, myth #2 is probably something we also disagree with. Good signage is important. Where is the nursery? Where are the bathrooms? Where is the information desk? These are frequently asked questions. Eventually we will become familiar with the facility but the first time visitor is not familiar with anything! Signage is critical and we are blessed to have an outstanding team that is providing the very best signage.

Regarding myth #3, the more we use computers and the internet, the more likely we will agree with this one. Dr. Rainer says, "Most guests go to your church website before they ever set foot on your church property. What they find on the website could very well determine if they will be your guests or not." Having a website that is attractive, informative, and easy to navigate is very important. In some ways websites are the newspapers of our day and must be kept up to date. We hope you are pleased with our new one even as we acknowledge that it is still a work in progress. Many things will be added in the coming weeks for the benefit of both members and prospective guests.

Posted by Jim Bachmann

Becoming A Welcoming Church - Part 4

"The vast majority of [church] guests feel like they are intruding on a party to which they were not invited."

So says Dr. Thom Rainer in his book, Becoming A Welcoming Church, (p. 24), describing the mind-set of most church visitors. He makes a great point that while we are enjoying the fellowship of our fellow church members, the visitor may not know a single person! He may have learned about the church via its website or simply driven by the edifice and decided to visit. And even if he does know a few members he may not be able to find them unless prior arrangements have been made.

One of my golf acquaintances visited last Sunday. He came alone. I was so pleased to see one of our elders take him under his wing. They had known each other for a long time but neither knew they would see each other Sunday morning. They connected in the lobby, came into the auditorium together, sat together, and left together. Afterward he texted me to say how much he enjoyed his visit and although he is pretty "embedded" at his own church he will visit again. He then signed his name and described himself as a "grasshopper," thus letting me know he had listened to the sermon!

I hope that coming to church is a joyful, fun experience each Sunday. Indeed I would be delighted for it to be described as a "holy party!" But we must always be attentive to the stranger in our midst. He or she is not intruding; rather they are our honored guests.

Posted by Jim Bachmann

Becoming A Welcoming Church - Part 3

Several years ago Kristen and I visited a church steeped in the Reformed tradition. We knew they would enthusiastically celebrate Reformation Sunday. We fully expected to hear a stirring rendition of "A Mighty Fortress." Surely the sermon would be about justification by faith. We were excited to attend!

We arrived about 10 minutes early (most visitors arrive early), walked through the lobby and past many "holy huddles" into the sanctuary. No one greeted us except the usher who said, "Good morning," and handed us a bulletin. We sat down in a small but pretty sanctuary with about 50 others. No one spoke to us until a gentleman approached. He didn't introduce himself. He merely asked, "Are you visiting this morning?" I stood and said, "Yes," and introduced myself. He promptly told me that we could not take communion because neither of us were members of the church. That was it.

We couldn't wait to leave.

Out of courtesy we stayed. The sermon was decent. The liturgy was nice. But they sang a different (and far inferior, in my opinion) arrangement of "A Mighty Fortress." And we felt unwelcome.

We will never visit there again.

From countless interviews with church visitors Dr. Thom Rainer tells us (Becoming A Welcoming Church, p. 18-20) that the worst part of a visitor's experience generally occurs right before the worship service begins. It happens when they sit in the sanctuary or auditorium and no one speaks to or sits with them: "That, in essence, is one of the surprises we heard from guests. Even in incredible churches, very few members make the effort to greet and speak to someone already seated before the service begins. And frankly, most church members don't ever go sit with guests."

No one sat with us either. But I will give them credit for one thing: someone did speak to us. We just didn't like what he had to say.

Let's be a welcoming church!

Posted by Jim Bachmann