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Congregational Friendliness

There are certain questions that every church must answer to either turn things in a positive direction or take the next step forward in ministry effectiveness. Here is one of these questions: How will we treat them when they come through our doors?

What is it like to visit your church? Frankly, most of us insiders don’t really know. We’ve been a part of the family for awhile and the memories of our initial ventures into what is now our church family are a distant memory. That original data has likely been overwritten by years of subsequent data, so we have forgotten what it’s like to know no one, not understand what’s going on, or wonder if friends could be found here. We have crossed those thresholds and now believe others shouldn’t feel what we’re no longer feeling.

Every church insists that it is a friendly church. After all, that’s where my friends are. Surely, everyone who walks through our doors can feel the warmth of the relationships we’ve established, right? If that were true, a high school cafeteria would be a warm and embracing place too. Truth is, if the new folks cast their vote on friendliness after their first visit, we might be surprised at the results. Most people don’t speak to folks they don’t know unless they feel it’s their job to do so.

First, if the “Greeters” are the only ones welcoming new people, you’re not a friendly church. Truth is, your church is only as friendly as the guy sitting next to me during the service. If the leader instructs us to greet each other and he does so half-heartedly (or not at all), it doesn’t matter how nice the platform people are–yours isn’t a friendly place.

How do you really help these guests feel at home?

Second, maybe you should ask what it’s like to be in your building for the first time. Is it clear where we should be going at every moment? Am I just supposed to follow the traffic flow? If I’ve come to your second service, I might accidentally follow the first service folks back to the parking lot. How do you help me find my way, find the restrooms, and find the right seat in the auditorium?

Third, think about how difficult your service might be to interpret for an outsider. What’s really going on? You see, we insiders have been following our order of service for awhile. We know what we do and even why we do it. We understand when Sister Betty gets a little excited and we’ve giggled more than once when Old Fred starts snoring a bit. We know when to sit, stand, sing, and lift our hands. We’re used to the pace and rhythm of our service, and usually aren’t adding self-conscious feelings to our experience. How do you help new people engage the worship experience?

Finally, what happens when it’s over? Do I just chalk up another experience in my memory book or will there be a repeat experience? How does your church help your guests want to come back again?

Think about the work you've put in just to have a new person come through your door. This is the opportunity you wanted! To be careless now seems more than a little tragic, doesn’t it?

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