If we are going to help our churches to grow and to point more people to Jesus, the way in which we welcome people is very important, and something that many churches have spent time thinking about. However, a good welcome is only the first step to helping people feel at home in our churches.
After the initial welcome, our challenge is to help people to feel a sense of belonging; to know that they are accepted and valued just as much as everyone else. This can be a real challenge in many of our churches, particularly where the majority of members have grown up together and been involved in church for a long time, or where the membership of a church has been quite static, with new people only rarely joining the congregation.
The problem is that what we regard as a close fellowship of people who know each well can seem to others like a closed group or a clique. We may unintentionally be creating barriers which stop others from feeling like part of our church, with the result that they don’t stay very long. The welcome on the front doors is good, but people are slipping out of the back door because too many of our internal doors seem to be closed.
Sometimes it is good to step back and take another look at the groups and activities which happen in our churches and try to see them as a new member might see them.
How easy is it for people to join in with the activities of your church? What groups are run as ‘entry points’, focused on developing that initial welcome into something longer lasting? How might we address some of the unmet needs of new members?
Today Schnase offers us this prayer and challenge:
Teach us Lord, not to rely on the wisdom of the world
or on our own understanding, but on the truth you have shown us in Christ.
Help us to open the doors of our hearts to you as we open the doors of our church to others.
Challenege: if you are part of a class, study group, choir, or other kind of small group meeting, talk with your group about inviting new people in, and then invite someone new yourself.