As a preacher’s daughter, I’d never visited a church in my life (well, maybe on vacation at some point)! And as a pastor’s wife, I’ve never had an option of where I would go to church. But when my husband and I moved to New Orleans, during the first few weeks visiting churches, I realized I wasn’t the preacher’s wife or the preacher’s daughter.
As freeing as this might sound for some people, it was very hard for me. I remember lots of smiles, and several people said, “Welcome!” Some even said, “Nice to meet you!”
Sometimes, my husband George was preaching somewhere else and other times, he was with me. When he wasn’t with me, I sat down alone. People walked by and visited with their friends, grouped together and found their usual spots. No one purposefully tried to make me feel bad, but I remember being alone and wishing someone would say to me, “Come sit with me!” No one ever did, though.
I vividly remember the Lord impressing on my heart to remember this moment. I wouldn’t be the new person for long. He implored me to not be the person who smiles, says “hi” and keeps walking to talk to my friends. He impressed on me to sit with the newcomer. Be with them.
The call to be hospitable and help newcomers feel welcome is no small act. Here are five practical ways you can do that and provide a pathway for connection at your church:
1. ASK VISITORS WHO ARE ALONE TO SIT WITH YOU.
Don’t simply say “hi”. If you see or meet someone new, go above and beyond to make them feel welcome in your church body. Introduce them to others. If they’re a male, find another male. If it’s a college student, find a college student; if it’s a middle or high school student, find another student. (You get the picture — be wise.)
2. PROVIDE NEEDED INFORMATION.
If they are trying to find a ministry or looking for someone, don’t just point out where to go; show them, introduce them, talk to them, stay with them. Be a minister and make your smile count for the glory of the Lord.
3. COLLECT INFORMATION AND PRAYER REQUESTS.
Your church likely has some form of a visitor’s card that is purposeful for collecting valuable information and prayer requests. Offer to help complete the visitor card and drop it off for them when they are done. We acquire their information and prayer requests because we care, not to add them to another list.
4. LEVERAGE MEDIA.
Offer to exchange emails or give them your social media information. Point them to the church’s social media platforms and encourage them to visit the church’s website for more information and ministry opportunities.
5. BE INTENTIONAL.
Go to church with a mindset that many visitors show up on any given Sunday because they have found themselves feeling alone and hopeless. Followers of Jesus should be the most hopeful people on the planet; don’t forfeit the opportunity to manifest living hope to those who visit your church.
I remember my sanguine self being very lonely visiting those churches in New Orleans. I wondered if this is what it felt like for newcomers to visit our previous church. I questioned how many times I had smiled and walked past someone with a well-meaning nod. I asked the Lord to forgive me for the times I had been too busy to make a difference in visitors’ lives.
Ask how the Lord may be calling you to show simple, but radical hospitality at your church this Sunday.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared on georgeross.net and is slightly edited and used with permission.
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Published December 14, 2020