Tony Morgan, a strategic leader who helps churches learn ways to grow the kingdom of God in our communities wrote an interesting article entitled, “Would you rather?: 10 Competing Choices for Growing Churches.” And point seven of this article stood out to me the most.
“I’d rather have a welcoming church than a friendly church. The welcoming church is always thinking guests first. They expect new people to show up every week. They are intentional about how they greet and welcome those guests. They are intentional about how they communicate, worship and teach with guests in their services. Friendly churches, on the other hand, can be some of the most unwelcoming places in the world, because the focus is on people who already are part of the church.” Great insight! (For the complete article you can go to tonymorganlive.com.)
You see, while being a friendly church is not a bad thing, it lends itself to focus on those people we know versus those who are new. When we have the mindset that someone new is coming to our church, we will put our best effort forward. If we are serving, we will be on time, even early. We will be extra nice. We will be more accommodating. And if we think that this new guest might not know Jesus, we will practice more grace and understanding. Paying attention to details is constantly on the mind of the welcoming church. The beauty of this mindset is that not only will the new guests benefit from the welcoming atmosphere, the known members will gain so much more, too.
The sad truth is this. If we don’t create this welcoming atmosphere in our churches, we lose people. They come once; they may have a nice time, but not a wow time. Nice times don’t attract people. Wow experiences create a hunger for more. This may sound a bit consumerist, but the reality is this, the first impression is often the most lasting one. People with immense grace will come back, but it often takes a while to overcome that first bad experience.
Sunday morning is an opportunity to treat everyone (guest and regular attendee) as if it’s their very first time. And when it comes to children and their parents, this is all the more critical! We are more than who we are as a person on Sunday; we are the face of Jesus to these families. His warmth and his love are experienced best if we…
- are on time.
- are prepared to receive.
- communicate clearly.
I don’t think we always realize that we are serving Jesus when we serve the many people who come to our churches on Sunday morning. Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me….Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:34-40). We have many strangers (guests) who come to our churches. When we welcome them, we practice invitation as Jesus spoke of. This word “invited” means hospitality. To be hospitable is to be welcoming with the intent to serve someone.
To be an outward focused church starts with how we treat the guest who shows up on Sunday. Let’s do more than just be friendly, let’s practice hospitality and serve Jesus by serving the many who come to hear from and be changed by Him.