Becoming A Welcoming Church
I want to talk briefly about the book we have given you, Becoming A Welcoming Church. It is important that we welcome strangers and visitors. One of the things that struck me about the book was the statement, "Here is the reality: what takes place in the first ten minutes when a first-time guest arrives will largely determine whether he or she returns."
I agree. And I like that—if for no other reason than it takes the preacher off the hook, to some degree! The best sermon will likely not overcome the first ten minutes if those minutes are unpleasant. Therefore what happens in the parking lot is critical. Is adequate parking available? Is there clear signage? Are visitor parking areas clearly marked? Is the front door unlocked? (I recall one Christmas Eve service at my former church where the front door remained locked until the prelude!) Are greeters talking amongst themselves in a "holy huddle" or are they intentionally available to welcome the visitor and offer assistance?
Far too often we attend church preoccupied with our own desires: will my friends be there? Will the sermon be good? Will the children be well cared-for? This is normal, but to be a welcoming church, we must also cultivate a desire to serve, love, welcome, and encourage others, especially those who are new among us. It is a gospel issue! Welcoming visitors is one obvious way we love our neighbor as ourselves.