Becoming A Welcoming Church

Today’s post, like those on Mondays, is taken from a book on church leadership, Sunday School, or small groups. I’ve chosen an excerpt from Dr. Thom Rainer’s latest book, Becoming a Welcoming Church. The book is a quick read, and contains insights that may challenge what we think about reaching out to the guests who attend a worship service at our churches.  Here is what Dr. Rainer says that I found especially helpful:

Therein lies the problem with most churches. Churches perceive they are a friendly church because the members are friendly to one another. But they don’t think about walking in the shoes of first-time guests. They don’t look at their facilities, their parking, their website, or their friendliness from a guest perspective…

Most church members have forgotten what it’s like to be a first-time guest. They now have established relationships in the church. They love their church. Their biases tell them their church is great.

But many church members and leaders are wrong. When we asked hundreds of guests about their experiences visiting churches, it was not a pretty picture. We asked specifically why they did not return to a particular church. Here were their top ten responses:

  1. The stand-and-greet time in the worship service was unfriendly and awkward. When I first saw this response coming in by the hundreds, I was surprised. And I dug deeper, I discovered there were two issues with the stand and greet time. First, some guests just felt awkward with the exercise. It seemed to be a ritual more for the members than the guests. Second, a number of guests did not mind the stand-and-greet time, but they felt left out during the welcome. Either they were totally ignored, or they were inundated with what they perceived to be superficial greetings…

I know of three churches in my area that have recently moved away from the stand-and-greet time in the worship service. I love the idea of making guests more comfortable, and for creating a more organic way to greet guests before and after the worship service. I found myself reaching out to people before and after last Sunday’s worship service, and I hope that others will do the same as we try to modernize our practices and make it easier for guests to connect with our churches.


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