The Advantages of a Happy ChurchJuly 19, 2013
I have a general rule of thumb about visiting places for the first time: if I feel uncomfortable or unwelcomed, I typically don’t go back. This is true with restaurants, vacation spots, individual homes, and yes, even churches.
Some of the most joyous places I have ever visited have been churches; and unfortunately, some of the most miserable places I have ever visited have been churches. It is sad to say, but some congregations don’t do well with visitors. They feel threatened by their presence, and aggravated by the fact that someone different just might sit in their pew (I mean, there name is engraved on the side, what do you expect?) But a church that wants to share the love of Christ must find ways to make the first-time guest feel welcomed.
A healthy church is a happy church, and a guest knows when the church is in a foul mood.
Several years ago we implemented the CARE Team Ministry at our church (Christians Are Reaching Everyone). This is more than a committee of handshakes and hellos (even though we do a lot of that). It is a mindset, it is a mood, it is an attitude.
We want our guests to feel honored. So from the very moment they pull into our parking lot, they know that we have a place for them. We do this through some very small but considerate gestures:
- We have designated parking up close to our building, as though we are expecting them to arrive, because indeed we are.
- We have teams at every entrance of the building with designated badges identifying themselves as members of the CARE Team. They are greeted with a warm handshake, and a packet of information about our church, along with a guest card to be filled out at their convenience.
- They are then guided into the various locations of our church based upon the life stages of their family. We have maps of the building in place to help guide them through our facilities. A member of our CARE Team will assist them to their classes.
- We have additional greeters at Sunday School doors to welcome them and make them feel at home.
- We also have ushers in place that help them find seating in the sanctuary if needed.
- We recognize our guests during the service but not in an awkward “shine-the-spotlight-on-the-new-people” kind of way. We simply have a time of fellowship and encourage our people to greet the new guests. We continually remind our members during other times of the week to be courteous to guests, give up their seats if necessary, and make them feel special.
- We also invite them to my office after church for a quick meet and greet. It s during this time I given them a special gift that is packaged with all the pertinent information about our church ministries.
- We also ask them for special prayer requests, and let them know we will partner with them in prayer.
- We follow up with them during the week with three-points of contact: phone call, email, and hand-written letter. We like to make visits to the home, but we leave that as an option to the guest. Our goal is never to be pushy or over-bearing. There is such a thing as creepy nice.
In summary, the joy of Jesus should be at the heart of every New Testament church. I believe the spirit of Christ should be exhibited every time the church doors are opened. We realize that our church is like all other churches- it is not for everyone. But I personally don’t want anyone to come to our church and feel like they are unwanted. They may not return for other reasons, but I trust it will not be because we were unfriendly or unkind.
Ask yourself a question: if I was a first-time guest at my church, would I want to come back? If you have trouble with the answer, put on a smile, get happy in Jesus and greet a few more guests this week at church!