On Sunday April 18th, 2010 I preached a sermon about Jesus empowering people for ministry, and to love all people.
The following list was included in as ways that we as a congregation, and more specifically, individuals within our congregation, can love any and all who walk through our doors. This list is adapted from the book Now Go Forward by J. David Eschelman. The author says, “Loving unbelievers the way Jesus did is the most overlooked key to growing a church…The command to love is the most repeated command in the NT, appearing at least 55 times.”
20 Ways to make someone feel welcome in church
- You are a host and not a guest at HMC. Making visitors feel welcome is primarily the responsibility of our individuals, not the nebulous “church.” Houston Mennonite is your church, and you’re part of our faith family. So any visitor that we have is visitor that you have as host.
- The most important person for a visitor to talk to in order to feel at home in a new church is you. It is not the pastor, or the greeter, but a regular attender who has no reason to connect with someone except that they genuinely want to out of a sense of love and being a good host. J. David Eshleman says “One of the most impressive gestures we can extend to first time visitors is for people with no official position to take the initiative and welcome them.”
- Treat first time visitors as guests of God, not strangers.
- Smile at everyone and offer your hand.
- Look people in the eye.
- Take the initiative, you are our church hosts and hostesses. Don’t wait for them to initiate conversation.
- Learn people’s names. Try to remember then when you see them after worship or the next time they visit.
- Appropriate and allowed Touch can be a great way to make people feel at home. A hand shake, a gentle pat on the back, an invitation to hold hands or lay hands on shoulders when we commission each other, etc…
- Ask questions and learn about them. It is better to express interest in them than it is to try to “sell” our church. Who, what, where questions are the best, try to avoid “why” questions. “What brings you to our church?” “How long have you been in Houston?” DO NOT play the Mennonite game, unless they initiate or a connection is uncovered mutually.
- Listening is a very effective way to show love.
- Greet children at their level. Getting down on one knee connects you to both kids and the parents.
- Let children be children. All children guests should be invited to join the kids upfront during children’s time and in the back (ages 1-5) for children’s church. When doing so, parents should be introduced to the leader of the children’s church and be informed kids can come and go as necessary.
- Invite first timers to something, anything! Scan the bulletin to find an event that day or next week to invite them to, like Sunday School. Invite them to come back to worship next week. Or better yet (!!) invite them out to lunch!
- Never let new people sit alone. If you see guests join us, consider moving to go sit with them. It is fictional to assume they want to “have their space.” Eschelman says, “New people should never have to sit alone. Take initiative and go to them without delay.”
- Help visitors find seating that suits their families needs. You may want to scoot over, or point out a row that has the right number of seats in it. I’ve even asked members to move before in order to keep families together.
- Help first time visitors by being their tour guide and helping them find our resources. Visiting a new church is like a cross-cultural experience, even for those of us who have visited dozens of other churches. Help them find their way by sharing hymnbooks and Bibles, letting them know where our nursery is, that “Children’s Message” is for kids just like theirs that happens up front on the carpet, etc… You may want to introduce me to them after the service.
- Invite people to fill out our visitor registration card. Having first timers information allows us to send them a card, and for the pastor to call them to thank them for joining us. Once we have their info, I keep them on our ‘invitation and Christmas card list” for at least one year.
- Tell people you’re glad they are here. Compliments and encouragement go a long way!
- Pray for them. Keep them in your prayers, asking God to help them find a meaningful church home that will equip them to be disciples of Jesus Christ. Whether our church or another, we believe they will only grow if they have a church family.
- Be yourselves! Houston Mennonite Church, you are loving! You have a good thing going! You have the capacity to love more people, and to love more deeply. Eschelman says, “Practice making people feel special, and what you give to others will be returned to you.” Consider yourself called!