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Posts from July 2010

What Everyone's Talking About?

The Church Council discussed it this week.  The Deacons did as well.  Next Sunday at 4pm when our adult small group leaders come together, we'll discuss it again.  What is it?

 

It's about our church being friendly.

 

What?  You say "We have a friendly church."  We do, for the most part.  However, we must understand that being cordial and being friendly are not the same thing.

 

Every so often I encounter folks who have been visiting our church and I'll ask "Did you have a good experience?"  Most of the time I hear "Yes, thank you."  Sometimes, there's a look on their face and I say "Go ahead, tell me the truth."  Then, I get it.  The discussion goes something like "The services are great, but I felt alone in the crowd," or "I didn't feel very welcome." 

 

Now, there are a lot of reasons why someone would say that.  Immediately, I want to go on the defensive and throw out the list of reasons (i.e. excuses) people feel this way.  Things like

  • "Well, did they go to a small group?" 

  • "Did they try to connect with anyone?"

  • "Maybe they didn't want anyone to talk with them?"

  • "Did they show up late and leave early?"

Those all happen, for sure, but does that make it better?

 

Recently I talked with a family who had been visiting regularly for about six months.  They are very outgoing, military, friendly and even went to small group and out to lunch with some folks once.  However, there was just something not clicking.  I noticed they hadn't been in a while so I contacted them and asked how things were.  It was a friendly conversation, but there it was again. . ."We just didn't feel welcome."  Wow.  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  My list of excuses didn't fit this family.

 

This quote really stuck out. . ."It's one thing to welcome people, but another to truly reach out and try to connect." 

 

This family is active now in another church in our community.  In fact, it's a good church, but of another denomination.  This person said that even though they had grown up Baptist, they felt more welcome and connected better at the other church and that's where they will call home while stationed here. 

 

Fortunately, this family has found a church to call home.  I'm confident God is blessing their church and their family.  It's just that this conversation once again brought to the surface something I've heard for the past sixteen years.  It's time we all work to make this "culture of unfriendliness" disappear.  

 

Here are some practical "Do's and Don'ts". . .

 

DO . . .

  • Introduce new people to your friends.

  • Take the first step.  Even if you're shy, take a chance and introduce yourself.

  • Get connected yourself so you'll have a place to invite others to get connected with you.

  • Welcome others with both your words and actions.

  • Be aware of what you can do to make others feel comfortable.

  • Remember that visitors don't know our church culture yet.

  • Laugh.  A good laugh puts everyone at ease.

  • Put others first.

  • Be approachable - inside church and outside.

  • Pat attention when someone talks to you.

  • Keep in touch with people who don't show up.  Let them know they were missed.

  • Engage people in the parking lot on the way to church.  If they are guests be willing to be late to your class so you can show them to the Welcome Center (especially if they have children.)

  • Remember there's joy in the Lord.  Tell your face! :-)

  • Be polite.

DON'T . . .

  • Make judgments about personal appearance.

  • Turn people away with negativity.

  • Assume others will connect.  Do it yourself.

  • Gossip or glare at newcomers (or anyone else for that matter.)

  • Assume someone is a snob.  They're probably shy.

  • Talk so much that the other person never gets a chance to share.

  • Use church as a place to sell your home-business products.

  • Assume people have Bible knowledge, understanding of our denomination or the practices of our church.

  • Assume someone else is being friendly so you don't have to.

  • Use language that makes others feel like outsiders.

  • Believe it's the ushers job to welcome folks. It's everyone's job.

  • Wait for a specific "welcome" time in the worship service. Even when we do this, it's not always authentic.

  • Take yourself too seriously.

It's pretty basic.  Yet, even as I look over the lists above, God is saying "You have a lot of work to do."  I know I do.  I guess we all do.  The message we offer - that of Life and Hope and Truth is too valuable.  People matter too much for us to miss the opportunity share.