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!