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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!

 

Greeters

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Most pastors and ministry leaders say they have a desire for their churches to be healthy, to grow, and for their people to be properly cared for. How do we do all of that? If the pastor is the only one who cares for all of the flock that model simply will not scale! A “pastor’s heart” is a good thing but it can also lead to unsustainable expectations and burn out. This is especially true if the pastor is a people pleaser.

There are solutions to the problems we face if we will consider structuring things differently. In Lasting Impact, by Carey Nieuwhof, He says, “Sometimes things aren’t as mysterious as we make them out to be!” Case in point, Moses! The children of Israel were now in the wilderness and Moses was trying as best he could to meet all of their needs. Everyone was coming to him as the man of God to solve their problems.

Then Moses’ father-in-law Jethro says to him, “What you’re doing is not good. You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone.” The size of any group does have an impact upon how you can minister to the needs of the people who belong to it. There is a difference between immediate family, extended family, and a gathering of family.

There is principle known as the “Rule of 70” which says that no matter what size your church is you can really only know 70 people personally. That is the number of an extended family. When you reach that size and grow past that size things have to change. When a church grows larger than 70 new people can no longer just walk in and make new friends. The extended family’s relational connectors are full!

Churches 70 or larger must (smaller can also) have greeters and connectors who help those who visit to meet the family and engage with them. More intentionality is needed now more than ever. In stagnant churches the greeters think their job is to welcome the regular members and that is part of it. In vibrant growing churches, the greeters see their first priority as introducing themselves to newcomers and helping them get connected to the family.

If we want to continue to add people to our church family then we must realize that Sunday morning is not just about connecting with our friends but also, and more importantly, ministering to newcomers. Growing and getting larger requires adjustments and building ministry teams to take care of and shepherd those God sends our way. This does mean that you have to structure bigger if you want to grow bigger.

Wait a minute, is this all about how “big” we get? Absolutely not! It is about sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone we can. Quoting from Carey Nieuwhof again, “We’re leading people to Jesus, not to ourselves or to our awesome church. Keeping the focus on Christ ensures that genuine life change happens and lasts.” The mission of the church has never changed and remains being obedient to the Great Commission.

People will attend your services for many reasons but they stay for one reason; a relational connection with Christ and with His people. People in our culture value knowing and being known, so if 70 is the limit, you must develop a system of groups of 70’s. There are two things that every person who visits your church needs. First, they need a role – a place of service. Secondly, they need a relationship – a place in a group.

Everyone needs to accept the responsibility to be a greeter, introducer, and a host. The process of assimilation simply means practicing Biblical hospitality in an intentional caring way. Every member of the church family must desire to welcome guests at your church the same way they would welcome guests into their home. People will bond to a church where they feel cared for. If no friendships are formed they will go somewhere they can find them.

Here are some ideas to consider on how to welcome those who visit:

  • Look for someone you don’t know.
  • Introduce yourself to them by asking them polite questions about themselves or their family.
  • Offer to sit by them, if possible, or ask if they would like to sit with you.
  • Engage with them in a conversation. Try to find a subject they are interested in or ask them if they have any questions about the church and its ministry.
  • Invite them for a time of coffee, refreshments, or offer to take them to lunch.
  • Practice the 3/10 rule! Encourage everyone at the end of the services to meet and engage with three people they do not know for the 10 minutes before everyone leaves!

We must train our church family how to take successive steps to help our guests to know how to become a part of our family!!! Healthy churches realize they must have a clear strategy to move people from being outside the family to becoming a fully committed family member!