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Welcoming Guests

Welcome

There has been much discussion and disagreement about welcoming those outside the church into “our” services. The “seeker” service was especially attacked and now many seem to be on the “consumer” bandwagon. While there can certainly be a lot of disagreement about how all of these things should look, it seems there ought to be more common ground based on the church’s purpose rather than focusing on debating the minor details. Here are a few things to ponder as you decide whom you will welcome as guests and how you will welcome them.

  1. All must be welcomed. We need genuine and authentic churches that realize that all of us are broken and desperately need to be fixed. Adrian Rodgers said, “We are not a showcase for sinners but rather a hospital for sinners.” If not careful, even if unintentional, we can give the air of the Pharisee in Luke 18, “God, I thank you that I’m not like other people…” Then he begins listing all of “their” sins. Several churches advertise that they are a church for people with hurts, habits, and hang-ups! Shouldn’t we all?                                                               One of our church plants states it this way in their core values, “Everybody belongs—people of every color, shape, personality, and story. We believe the church ought to be a home for people of every age, ethnicity, and socio-economic background. We ought to be able to befriend and do life with people who are unique and different than we are.” If our doors are not open for all to attend then we must ask ourselves why our doors are open at all? Luke 14:23, “Go out into the highways and lanes and make them come in, so that my house may be filled.”
  2. Guests should be honored as special. The members and the regulars should treat them as the special guests that they are. If they want our seat, they can have it. If they want our parking space, they are welcome to it. If they want on the end of the row, more power to them. We want to greet them with more than a smile and a handshake. We think more highly of them than we think of ourselves as the scripture teaches. We want them to know that they loved and we are going to role out the red carpet treatment for them.                                                  We know that in God’s word we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves. We also are told that we are to recognize and consider others as more important than ourselves. If we are not careful we can begin to feel entitled because of how long we have been a member and believe that gives us certain membership rights. Listen to what Paul says in Rom. 9:3, “For I could wish to be cursed and cut off from the Messiah for the benefit of my brothers, my own flesh and blood.” Certainly we can give up a few of our fringe benefits for our guests.
  3. Let them know that Jesus loves them and so do you! People are longing to know that they are loved and cared for by others. They seem to know that they are not living their lives in a way acceptable to God without us even telling them. Many times I have been told, “You don’t want me coming there, the roof will cave in!” It didn’t! “Your church doesn’t want somebody like me coming there!” Yes, we do because all of us are broken and all of us need God. Another core value of the church plant mentioned above is, “We will do whatever it takes, short of sin, to bring more people to Jesus.”                                                                                                                                                                                     People are looking for others who genuinely care for them regardless of whether they are in agreement and for those who will love them even when they challenge what we believe and stand for. Regardless of how they dress or look we want to build a bridge to them so that they might realize how much God really does love them. Someone has said, “If you are going to be a bridge, you have to be willing to get walked on!” We need to help others not expecting anything in return. We welcome our guests desiring to help them any way we can so they might know that they are loved for who they are!
  4. Build a culture of hospitality! Build and train everyone to be on the outlook for guests and to serve them any way they can. Offer to sit with them if they are by themselves. Be ready to show them where they need to go and help them get acquainted when you get them there. Open the door, share a smile, give them your seat, or whatever other way you need to in order to show them how thankful you are that they decided to attend. Don’t worry about whether they came for the right reason or not because they probably didn’t. Remember, many of us attended initially for the wrong reasons.

People will engage churches for many reasons but they usually stay for one reason; relational connections with Christ and His people. A good friend of mine has said many times, “They may come because of the excitement but they will stay because they are loved.” Once again, if we are not careful, we can seem to only be interested in them for what we can get from them and what they can do for us by boosting our attendance and helping our offerings. Instead, let’s show them what Jesus can do for them and how we can serve them.

Healthy churches welcome all of their guests!

 

Postnatal Care

postnatal pic

 

Once a baby is born, the first 20-30 minutes are crucial. This time is to make sure the baby is healthy and what steps might need to be taken to ensure their proper development. At one minute and at five minutes an Apgar assessment is performed that checks the heart rate, breathing, muscle tone, reflex response, and color. The newborn’s weight and measurements are taken and recorded. The baby is never more dependent upon others than when postnatal care is taking place.

When a person receives Christ as their Lord and Savior we need to consider how important the first 20-30 minutes are for them. All too often we celebrate, and we should, but we do not immediately begin to care for the infant in Christ. It is almost as if they are left to fend for themselves and we believe that they will just naturally grow and develop on their own. They are not ready to care for themselves and they need someone who will guide and help them at this crucial time.

There are two keys to spiritual growth.

  • First, you must begin taking steps immediately.
  • Second, you must continue to take steps constantly.

The first key is vitally important but what if you do not know what steps you should take? Yes, the individual believer is personally responsible for his or her own spiritual growth but we also are responsible to these new babes in Christ. We must be available to lead them on a path that will help them grow as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Paul makes this clear in Galatians 4:19, “My children, I am again suffering labor pains for you until Christ is formed in you.” Once someone takes the step to become a child of God we must then help him or her to grow and mature knowing that it does not occur just automatically. Consider the importance of postnatal care to the young believer. Someone must be ready to care for them in the areas they are unable to care for themselves by mapping out the next steps they need to take so they mature in the Lord.

What does postnatal care look like for the new believer?

  1. Have a designated caregiver! The first steps for a new believer can usually be accomplished more effectively in a one on one relationship with a more mature believer. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every time someone made a public profession of faith that they were immediately introduced to a caregiver? The journey begins with someone who can help guide them in the next steps of following Christ. The caregiver begins to assess the new believer’s needs.
  2. Relationships are immediately built and deepened. Titus 2 clearly shows us the importance of older men and women teaching and guiding the younger ones. This is not necessarily older in age but could also be older in their walk and maturity with Christ. Win Arn has said that a new attender needs six new relationships in the first six months for them to stay around; “Six to stick!” It probably must happen much faster in today’s world. The caregiver begins the steps toward strong relationships.
  3. The discipleship process begins immediately by teaching them about the next steps they need to take in their spiritual journey. What does it mean to be born again? What is baptism and why is it important? Why should they be faithful to attend worship services weekly? What does it look like to read their bible daily and develop a prayer life? Consider all of the things you want the new believer to experience within the first month as a Christian and be prepared to show them the next steps after that.
  4. You demonstrate to them that they are not on this journey alone. Sometimes they do not realize that help is available. If a mentor was assigned from day one of new birth then it would develop a culture where it is natural that every new believer has a caregiver until they can care for themselves and then help care for someone else. The goal is always to be moving them forward. Remember, the second key to spiritual growth is for them to continue to take steps forward.
  5. Keep them moving forward. Hal Seed, pastor of New Song Church in Oceanside, CA, says this about caring for new believers, “Newborns are pretty much helpless. They can’t feed themselves, change themselves, or help themselves in any way except to cry out for momma. Young children, on the other hand, can do many things for themselves. If children are coddled and never learn to take responsibility for feeding and clothing themselves, their personal growth will be stilted.”

“Likewise, if teens don’t start helping others, their character development is stunted and they wind up as self-absorbed and self-centered adults. Help your people take responsibility for themselves and then for others as early as possible.” Constantly moving the new believer toward being a self-feeder and showing them how to progress from the milk of the word to the meat is essential. Then the new believer becomes a maturing believer and the maturing believer can then become a reproducing believer.

Healthy churches care for their newborns. Colossians 1:28-29 says, “We proclaim Him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that they may present everyone mature in Christ. I labor for this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in me.”

How Deep is Your Bench

how deep pic

In the NFL you can go to any team’s website and check out their depth chart. They normally go three deep at almost every position. First through third string is necessary in most positions in case someone goes down during the season. Injury, of course, is going to happen to someone on the team at some time. They prepare ahead by training others to be ready to step into their position. Even though they may not play every down, or even any downs, they need to be ready to enter the game in a moment’s notice. Your church would be wise to think three deep on your ministry depth chart.

Your volunteer team needs to always be recruiting others and training them to be ready to step into their position. Notoriously, many churches are guilty of placing people into roles and responsibilities without letting them know what the expectations are for them. There is the tendency is to give them no training at all where they are expected to “fend” for themselves. If you want more out of your team, then you are going to have to invest more into your team. Three people need to know how to accomplish every role, position, and job in your ministry.

First, think of “just in time” training! Too much training can be frustrating for people to fit into their already busy schedules. Plan on an initial orientation to educate them on what to expect and then offer quarterly reconnects. Also, have someone designated to call them and see how they are doing, or need help, and if they have any questions. Weekly contact through a phone call can help a volunteer keep from being overwhelmed. Here are three things you can ask them: How did it go yesterday? Anything I can do to help you? How can I pray for you?

Second, organize ministry teams to determine job descriptions, divide responsibilities, and develop the purpose of their team. Why does this team exist? What is this team supposed to accomplish? One of the keys to recruiting volunteers is to be as clear as possible about responsibilities and expectations of the volunteers. Make a list of any special tasks team members might be asked to do, or areas of responsibilities of which team members might be asked to be in charge of, or special events the team organizes. Have team members get together to brainstorm and clarify their purpose.

Third, define what the team leader responsibilities entail and include. It is hard to fulfill expectations if no one has communicated what those expectations are. How long are they expected to serve? How many hours a month will this require? What useful skill sets are necessary or would be helpful in this role? How often should they get their team together to discuss their progress? Who do they answer to and how often are they expected to report to that individual? There needs to be a clear chain of command. Who is available to help answer questions and help work through problems?

Fourth, determine what assistants you need and what their roles will be. When you divide responsibilities and meet with your team members there are three questions that need to be answered. What needs to be done? Who will be responsible to see that it gets done? And what is the deadline? If you do not ask these questions and assign these responsibilities then your team will soon become more of a committee. Committees tend to talk about everything that needs to be done but not much gets done. You need team members who work on the ministry but also work in the ministry.

Fifth, know who your team members are and pray for them. Whether you are more relationship–oriented or task-oriented you must remember that valuing people always comes ahead of accomplishing the task. How can you add value to their lives? How can you best help them to be successful in the task they have been asked to do? What kind of specialized training should you offer? For the dream to work the team must work. A team only works when everyone is happy to be a part of the team. Think about how you can rotate team members so they can get a break when needed.

Sixth, determine how you will recruit more volunteers to serve on your ministry teams. We think putting it in the bulletin or announcing it from the platform is enough, but it isn’t. When church members were recently surveyed and asked why they did not volunteer more here was the answer; “We were never asked!” They need to be asked face to face. Ask them to join someone to watch and observe. Fight the temptation to just throw them into the role without being able to see what it looks like and how it operates. This gives them the opportunity to “kick the tire” and see if it is for them or not.

Lastly, think through what teams you need to have in place. Think through the systems needed to maximize the impact of the hard work of building relationships. If healthy systems are not developed then the back door can swing as wide open as the front. Consider systems such as assimilation, finance, worship, outreach, discipleship, small groups, ministry placement, and leadership development. What will these look like in your context? Who will oversee these systems? What will their job descriptions look like? What systems must be a priority for where you are in the process right now?

There is much work to do as you consider everyone’s roles and responsibilities. Then you need to begin recruiting and training volunteers to build a team depth chart that is three deep.

Healthy churches make sure that they have entry-level roles where people can become easily involved.