A Lasting Impression
People talk about being “C-and-E Christians” or going to church on Easter to make Mom happy. Some attend church on Easter because it seems like a good time to get back to church. No matter the reason, it is common to have visitors on Easter. Because it is expected that there will be visitors, we put extra effort into making a good impression.
Making a good impression is fairly easy and we do it all the time. We dress up for a job interview. We deep clean the house for guests. We make fancy food for dinner parties. But the problem with making a good impression is that it is temporary by nature. After the job interview, we go home and put sweatpants back on. After the guests leave, we stop regularly dusting the baseboards. Pizza is on the menu the night after the dinner party.
In ministry, our job is not to use temporary sparkle to impress the people that come through the church doors; our job is to connect them to the risen Jesus and his promise of eternal life. So what can you do to create a place where people meet Jesus and are connected to his love on a regular basis?
Preparation starts well before Resurrection Sunday and it starts with ministry leadership. Remind yourself, and encourage staff and volunteers to remember, that hospitality is part of our Christian calling.
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Hebrews 13:2 ESV).
Hospitality involves more than impressing. It’s a dedicated effort to going out of your way to be sympathetic and caring. Think about a time you have stayed at a hotel, dined in a restaurant, or taken a plane flight. Think about your reaction to stellar service or poor hospitality. We are more likely to return to a place if when you feel taken care of and valued.
Before Easter Sunday, invite staff and volunteers to walk the church property with you. Are there things you can do to show that you care? Could you plant flowers, repave the parking lot, re-stripe the parking spaces? Are your entrances clearly marked? Would you feel at ease staying at a hotel if you had to dodge potholes in the parking lot or wander around for five minutes to find the front door?
Consider what awaits guests on the inside of your building. Is someone available to greet them and point them to the coat rack? Are bathrooms clearly marked? What accommodations do you have for visitors with mobility issues or those who are in wheelchairs? Don’t put out coffee or cookies before service and expect guests to know that those are for after the service.
When you check into a hotel, you get literature or find it in your room. The desk personnel tell you where your room is—“Fifth floor. The elevators are to your right.”—and you have information about how to order room service and how to get on the wifi.
Treat Easter guests the same way. Greet them warmly—you’re happy they’re here! Point out the sanctuary. Offer to show people to the children’s ministry area. If appropriate, offer the wifi password. Use printed material or screens to tell people more about your church and let them know how to follow along with your worship.
Anticipate needs guests may have. Hotels can bring you a toothbrush if you forgot yours. Are there extra diapers and wipes available for parents with infants? Is there a decaf coffee option? Do you have gluten-free and allergy-sensitive food options? If parents drop their children off, do they know when and how to pick them back up or what happens if their child suddenly needs mommy?
Hospitality is also about choice. Kids would rather stay with mom and dad? That’s fine. Someone doesn’t want to participate in communion or the Lord’s Supper? Ok. People would rather sit in the back? That’s cool. Show respect for visitors’ choices and be gracious. Do not assume parents want to put little ones in the nursery—hotels don’t put a swim cap and goggles in your room, but you may not want to use the pool. People don’t know “how you do things here” so relaxing certain unwritten rules will make people feel at ease.
Ultimately, we want visitors to come back—so let’s ask them! Include an invitation to your next event in your printed or projected material. Have greeters available after services to verbally invite guests back.
The Gospel of the risen Jesus is good news for regular attendees and newbies alike. Take the time to objectively evaluate and think through the things that guests could experience when they come to Easter services. Showing hospitality is our Christian duty and privilege. What better day to embrace that than on Easter?
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