Last month Pastor Dale wrote about two churches he and Sylvia had visited while on vacation. The people in each church were opposites. One church felt welcoming and friendly; the other was not at all!
What makes one feel welcome – at church or elsewhere? Is it the music? Is it the building? Is it the furniture? Is it available parking? Is it a nursery or Sunday School class for your children? In my opinion, it is the people who make a church feel welcoming and friendly.
However, being “user-friendly” encompasses a lot more. People are looking for different things in a church. Many people have children; thus, the nursery and Sunday School is important to them. If a person is single, he/she might be looking for a church with active singles groups. Musicians may be looking for a place to sing or play an instrument. Seniors may want activities, or they may want to socialize while at church. No matter the demographic, all people want to feel warmly welcomed. As Dale pointed out, however, we must be careful not to overdo it.
Trinity Tower Church does have the reputation of being a friendly church—usually. We care about each other and show that care and concern in many ways—usually. We make our guests feel welcome, so they’ll want to return—usually. “Usually” is the key word here. Let’s see…. what we can do to turn “usually” into “always” and improve upon our “user-friendly” image.
The first people that our guests normally see are: the greeters, the person at the Welcome Stand, the ushers, and Pastor Dale is often in the Narthex greeting everyone — members and guests. Possibly these “front line” people could be working on a more cooperative approach to meeting and greeting our guests. If a guest slips by one of them, hopefully someone else will notice. We want to make sure to welcome them before they enter the sanctuary.
We can all work together to make Trinity Tower a very warm, welcoming “user-friendly” church. We already have the minimum elements in place, but let’s see if we can improve upon these elements.
Greeters: These “front-line” welcomers are often the first human contact our guests have with our congregation. They warmly greet guests with a smile, ask if they’re visiting, and usher them to the Welcome Stand.
Welcome Stand: This is the place where the guests will introduce themselves, sign our guest book and be given a gift and some pertinent information about our church and its programs.
Ushers: These individuals make it their responsibility to help guests find appropriate seating. Ushers ask, “Where would you like to sit?” and usher them to a seat. If they have children, they direct them to the appropriate room.
The congregation: All of Trinity Tower’s people can seek out individuals they don’t immediately recognize. And, yes, we know how some members feel, “I am not sure if a person has been here before or not. And, I would not want to embarrass a person who is a long-time member, so I don’t tend to say anything.” To that, we suggest you error on the side of welcoming. Engage them in conversation anyway. Introduce yourself: “Hello, my name is _____. I’m not sure we’ve met.” Or, you might express your pleasure: “I’m glad you are here with us today.” And if you feel led, invite them after worship with, “Would you like to join me for coffee and fellowship time?”
The pastor and other church leaders: These people create a worshipful climate and greet newcomers and members after the service. They witness by their words and actions.
By making welcoming skills second nature to volunteers, church staff and all members, our church will be the place people want to be—regularly. When we welcome others, we honor God.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for every opportunity you give us to share your goodness with others. Help us to be aware of these opportunities and to act on them. Amen.