Looking for a church

Searching for a new church can be a challenging endeavor. As a pastoral family in transition, we are now experiencing this first hand. The fact that we’d like to find a church within a specific denomination (Free Methodist) helps to narrow down the list of churches in our area considerably. But we still have several churches to visit and chose from.

So far, we’ve been guests at 5 Free Methodist churches in our area on a Sunday morning. It is a great learning experience to be “new in the pew”. The following gives you a little insight into what the search process has been like so far for a “young family” looking for a church. Please keep in mind that our experience will be different from others (i.e. we are very familiar with church language, culture, etc).

Prior to Sunday morning, we are checking out the church website for the service time and also looking to see if it gives us any idea on what to expect for our first visit. Like many visiting a church for the first time, we wonder about attire. And as tired parents to a wee one, we wonder if we can bring our coffee to church.

Since we’ve never been to any of these churches before (on a Sunday morning), we are pure newbies when we arrive. We have experienced firsthand the importance of good signage (i.e. where’s the main entrance? where are the bathrooms?). We appreciate being told about the nursery (we have a 1 year old) and also being made to feel comfortable if we decide to keep our daughter in the service. This helps as I don’t plan to put our daughter in the nursery on our very first visit to a church. With this in mind, we appreciate when there’s space at the back of a sanctuary where we can sit or walk around with our one year old.

You may be wondering: what exactly are you looking for in a church? I think I’ll take a stab at this question at another time in a different post. We certainly don’t expect perfection.

firsttimeguestparking

Photo credit: looking-for-a-church

I’ll leave you with this: a church must be prepared for first time guests to arrive on ANY Sunday during the year. Even in the summer months. You never know when a person, couple or family will decide to give your church a try. Always be ready. And lastly, welcoming new folks isn’t just for the pastor to do, rather, it’s more-so for the congregation members. Besides the pastor being kinda busy that morning (a guest may slip in when the service has started and leave before the pastor can get to them),  it seems to mean more to first time guests when a congregation is outgoing vs. just the pastor is friendly.

That’s all folks. For now. We are midway through our journey to find where God would have us serve & be served. While in this process, we seek to learn, grow, and encourage each and every church that we visit.

 

the missing ingredient when greeting church visitors

First impressions are significant to people looking for a church. A church often has one shot to help a guest feel welcomed and wanted. While most churches have designated greeters who have big hearts and good intentions, there’s one thing that they often miss doing. Congregants can miss this simple yet significant step, as well.

While visiting a dozen different churches while Derek was on sabbatical, there was a common theme between them all: each one greeted us in some way, shape, or form. It’s the degree to which we felt welcomed that varied.

Here are our reflections:

First, we were impressed when random congregation members talked to us instead of only the greeters.

Second, while we noticed that most greeters said “hi” and asked us our names, very few told us their names. So while I’d say that we were greeted, there was a piece missing. The element that was lacking was the feeling of a mutual connection.

From our experience, the advice would be: next time you see someone new at your church, do say hi. Ask them their name(s) and a little about them. But don’t let it end there. Tell the guest your name and something about you. This can be how long you’ve been attending your church, where you work, etc. Remember, connection is a two-way street. Telling a guest a little about you can go a long way in their leaving feeling connected.

To all those serving in the role of church greeter – you’re awesome. You are needed and very important. You hold one, if not the most, important volunteer position in your church. Keep up the good work! But remember, next time you talk to someone new at your church, don’t forget to tell the guest your name and something about you. By doing this you’ll not only be friendly but you’ll also be personable. You’re also more likely to stand out in their memory.

Being intentional about not only greeting but also connecting with guests at your church is mega-important. It’s the missing ingredient in many churches, but when it’s present it’s oh so sweet. Aiming for connection instead of friendliness helps first-time guests want to come back for a second visit and more.