Would you rather be a guest or a visitor? Guests are welcome, visitors are often intrusions. This may seem like a small thing, but it will pay dividends in your attitude and the attitude of the congregation if you start welcoming guests and stop seeing newcomers as visitors.
Why Guests and Not Visitors
When you are a guest your hosts have a different attitude. They go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and welcome. They show you hospitality. They engage you in friendly conversation. They roll out the red carpet. They seek to make you comfortable. When I was a child and my parents were having guests over my brother, sister and I had to make sure the house was cleaned up, we dressed up, and knew we had to be on our best behavior. It was a special occasion. When a guest walks through the door of your Church it should be the same.
Making the decision to attend a worship service at a Church for the first time is stressful. You don’t know what to expect or how you will be received. Often there are things happening in a persons life, like pain and loss, that motivates her to walk through the doors of a Church. God is involved in the process, and often Satan is fighting against it. What should our response be to God’s activity in a person’s life? Should it not be enthusiastic, joyful, and kind.
How should you welcome a guest.
Ask yourself if I was a guest what would make me feel welcome, what would make me feel special, what would amaze me. How can you show that level of kindness to your guests – in doing so you may be preparing them to hear the gospel. Coming to your Church should be an experience of grace and truth. Both are needed. John tells us that the experience of Jesus involves both (John 1:14). Do you not want your guests to experience Jesus when they come to your worship service? When I was a pastor, I assumed every guest was spent specifically to the Church I served. God was entrusting them to us, would we be faithful and deserving of his trust?
The Gospel of Luke tells of the day Jesus was invited to share a meal at the home of Simon the Pharisee. During the course of the dinner a sinful woman crashed the party and washed Jesus feet with her tears and her hair and anointed his feet with perfumed oil. Simon was outraged that Jesus would allow such a woman to even touch him. Jesus forgave the woman her sins and turned to Simon and rebuked him for his lack of hospitality. it seems Simon invited Jesus to his home but did not treat him as guest. He snubbed and insulted him by his lack of hospitality. The woman, an outsider not even invited to the party, showed him the hospitality he deserved and she was rewarded for her it. Jesus’ rebuke of Simon shows that hospitality matters to God.
Where to Start:
Instead of inundating you with a list of things you should do. I suggest you do something a little different. Grab a few friends and pretend you are coming to your Church for the first time. Put yourself in a newcomer’s shoes and walk through your Church and the worship service and ask yourself what would make me feel welcomed and wanted. What would ease my stress. What do I need to know to be comfortable. What do I see. What do I notice? What would show me respect and understanding? What would make me say “wow”?
Use this information to begin building a plan of what you need to change, improve, and highlight. Do this regularly, not just once but at least once a quarter and even more frequently. Hospitality is a significant work not a small project.
You might also want to try making a detailed list of everything you would like a potential guest to experience when they come to your Church for the first time. Make it specific and detailed. What needs to happen every week for a guest’s experience of your Church to be great? Then begin talking about it with people. And don’t stop. And pray about it. And pray about it some more. Don’t stop praying about it. Ask others to pray about it with you.
You see hospitality and assimilation of people into the life of your Church is not just about setting up an intentional system of things to do. It is an attitude of the heart. An attitude of the heart of the whole congregation.