Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.
Welcoming the stranger isn't optional. It's an essential, Christ-like act.
To be fair, it’s natural to get caught up in visiting the people we haven’t seen all week in the minutes before and after church services. However, that's exactly the kind of insular behavior that repels the visitors who have stepped outside their own comfort zones to seek God, community, or acceptance in a new church.
Church isn't a private, spiritual social club.
So, let's be clear: Everyone is a
It's ok to be friendly. Do you have a fear that you will drive people away if you are too forward? It's a risk worth taking. Indifference and indecisiveness are far worse than assertive friendliness.
Lost for words? Say more than Hello. Ask the newcomer about themselves. Are they passing through or have they moved to the area? Do they have family here? Give them a tour of the church facilities. Introduce them to the pastor. Ask them if they enjoy football or have plans to watch the Big Game. Ask what their church background is. Ask them if they have any questions. Show them the book you're reading in your Sunday School class...
Join them in their worship. Ask them to sit with you. This is big. This is so meaningful.
Think beyond the worship service. Be intentional yet flexible – arrange your Sunday plans around the possibility of including the newcomer or invite them to an upcoming church event and -- this is important -- offer to meet them here to walk in together. Newcomers are almost always looking for a community that will include them and accept them.
The purpose of church social events isn't to entertain ourselves with fun parties on God's dime-- it's to provide a comfortable atmosphere in which it is safe to invite friends and visitors. We really drop the ball when we plan the party but fail to invite the guests!
Don't expect Facebook to do all the heavy lifting. Of course, social media and flyers and posters and emails do attract a number of people to our church but research tells us that people are far more likely to come (and return) due to a personal invitation. So definitely hit "share" when you see a neat event our church is promoting on Facebook -- but make a point to also follow up with a personal invitation to a newcomer or friend!
Does this feel pushy? Are you afraid your invitation will be rejected? John 14:27. Pray that God will give you courage, that the Lord will help you break out of your comfort zone, and that His love for the stranger will so fill you that you forget about your own discomfort.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone refuse to return to a church because people were too welcoming. On the other hand, there are too many heart-wrenching stories of visitors who have felt invisible in a "friendly" church.
Let that not be here.
Seek. SERVE. TOGETHER.