By Kathryn Featherstone
A couple of months ago, our family moved to a new community. I have been winding my way around town using Google maps, trying to find good doctors for our family, and longing to be connected with people in this new place.
Finding and becoming involved in a local church is an important way I hope to become connected. One particular church stood out as being friendly and thoughtful in the way they noticed the new people coming through the doors. This is a main reason why our family chose to return!
A significant challenge for creating community in our churches is that we’re doing it for both the people who already are part of the church and for the people we hope to welcome in to the church. In a previous post, I shared ideas for how we can help grow community within the church. You might try these ideas for welcoming new people into your church community:
- Build in time for small talk. If you have a “meet and greet” time built in to your service, make it long enough to ask someone’s name and say “hi,” rather than just enough time to shake hands. The person kicking off this time can suggest that people try to meet someone new or ask a particular question to those nearby.
- Recruit a welcome team. Choose people gifted at smiling and meeting new people to serve at the welcome desk, at the front door, and at other important locations in your church entryway.
- Remember people’s names. This is a huge factor in making people feel noticed. To help you remember names, you can write them down (use an app!), say the names a few times while you’re talking to them, or use a trick to help you remember the names (such as thinking of someone else you know with that name).
- Inform greeters. Make sure greeters know about various activities for various ages so they can invite newcomers to become involved. For example, greeters can direct children of different ages to the nursery or Sunday school. Or, they can inform seniors about an upcoming lunch program.
- Give a gift. Send newcomers off with a gift that shows you are excited to see and serve them. (CTA has lots of options for visitor gifts!)
- Model it. As a leader, model how to welcome the newcomers. Sunday mornings are busy, but make it a priority to say hello to people you don’t recognize.
- Put it in words. Communicate the value of welcoming church guests to your volunteers and church members. This is everyone’s privilege and responsibility! For example, you could talk with volunteers about noticing new people and learning their names. Or at the end of the service, encourage attendees to take time to linger and talk, especially being sure to engage with the guests who sat near them.
It can be hard to change or try new things, especially when it involves meeting new people. If you would like more information about growing community in your church, see CTA’s Created for Community resources.
How do you make guests feel welcome in your church?
Kathryn Featherstone is a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and a board-certified Christian Life Coach. Get to know her more at livealifeoflove.org.
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