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Becoming A Welcoming Church - Part 6

As we continue to think about becoming a welcoming church, I must offer a word of caution. Occasionally visitors are overwhelmed if they receive too much attention! Listen to Justin: "I came away worn out from the visit to the church. The people were all over us. My wife and I and our two kids were one of very few families there, and they seemed desperate to get us. We left asking ourselves, 'Who are these people?' We had seen some of them in town, and they sure weren't friendly there. But they put on a good show when we visited." (Becoming a Welcoming Church, p. 30)

About one in seven church visitors said something similar when surveyed. Is it possible to be too friendly?

I believe there is no substitute for authenticity. When visitors feel like they are a "means to an end" they will respond unfavorably. But when they feel genuinely welcomed and respected they are extremely appreciative. Some people prefer to visit quietly and have little interaction. Others are more open to engagement with the membership. We have to develop an instinct and know where the lines need to be drawn. It is not always easy but if our hearts are in the right place and we want to love our neighbor as ourselves, we will often hit the mark.

And, by the way, don't jump to conclusions based on a visitor's response (or lack thereof). In 1991 when I was just starting my previous church, I made a follow-up phone call to a woman who had visited the previous Sunday. She was very abrupt. She stated emphatically that "she was not interested in our church." She made me feel a little better when she said her son-in-law might be interested. A few years later she joined our church! Her husband eventually became an elder. Her son-in-law eventually became an elder as well.

You never know!

Posted by Jim Bachmann

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

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