I consider myself fortunate to be part of a church where people care about others. As a church we desire to see people come to Christ and grow and mature in their faith. I see this in the way our congregation speak to new people and encourage each other. I am very thankful for this.
We recently held a lunch and discussion time for our church Welcome team. During was a time of many helpful discussions around how we welcome people at Trinity Brighton both as part of the Welcome Team and members of the congregation. We discussed welcoming and helping people throughout the whole service and how we can do this well. Through these conversations we decided to change the name of the team from ‘Welcome Team’ to ‘Hosting Team’ in recognition of the fact we are not just saying hello and moving on but are hosting people in our house.
How we view our church can affect how we welcome people. If we see our church as the house of God, then when people come in, we are bringing them into our house. Danny Franks in his book’ ‘People are the Mission’, talks about guests and defines them as anyone who visits your church. His thought is generally we treat guests quite differently to how we treat visitors. He explains that visitors can be both welcome and unwelcome however guests are invited, they are people you want there. When people seek our church, they are seeking Jesus and the gospel, which is exciting. They are guests in our house, and we want to care from them as we would a guest in our own home. When people visit our homes as guests, we generally show them where things are, explain how tricky things work (such as the trick to getting the remote the trick to work), ask them about themselves and take time. We also make sure we have our guests phone number and can get in touch with them again. Our role with guests in our church is to treat them as guests through encouraging them to share their information with us via a contact card, telling them more about our church, helping them know how things work, inviting them back and encouraging them to become involved.
Have you ever been to an event where you feel like an outsider? Perhaps an unfamiliar environment with people you don’t know, unwritten rules you don’t understand and a language that is completely unknown (this by the way is me at any sporting event). What feelings and emotions does this bring up? Now imagine an environment where you feel like an insider. Here you know people, know where things are, know how things work, are involved and participating, know the order of events and speak the language. As an insider you look forward to going, you are included and involved. The sense of being an outsider is something you feel deeply within and is difficult to spot.
For a newcomer attending a church means being an outsider. Clearly there are degrees of how much of an outsider people feel but still they are an outsider. Perhaps someone went to church as a child, but it was a long time ago, perhaps they have been attending church, but it was in another country, culture or denomination. The differences can be small or stark. It can be overwhelming and scary. For some the first visit is not the hardest. For many at our church the first visit can be very positive experience with plenty of people to chat to. However, by the third visit people may be considered as new and may feel forgotten. People remain new to an environment until they are immersed within it, have friends, understand how it works and are involved.
Ephesians 1 explains God’s purpose that the church should be the full expression of Jesus Christ as we are one with him. As people who want to see others come to Christ and become part of the church body there are few things we can pray about and consider.
How do we bridge the gap between new and immersed within our congregation?
1. That God may reveal to each of us the things we do that help draw others towards Christ so we can continue to do them.
2. That God will help us make time to welcome others both at church and outside of church.
3. That God may God reveal the things that create distance with people and show us how to change these.
4. That God will draw people to him, and welcome them well.
Have a great week.
Ministry Support Worker
Trinity Church Brighton
0430 071 973