First time guest to church: 5 things we appreciated

In 2016, we had the experience of being first time guests at a lot of churches. If I had to guess, I’d say that we visited 20 churches. Big churches. Small churches. Middle class churches and churches where most congregation members are living in poverty. Congregations that meet in old buildings, new buildings, etc. Quite a sample platter.

A friend asked if I’d write about what some of these churches did well in regards to welcoming us as new guests. In no particular order, here are 5 things that stand out from our experience.

First up, we noticed and liked when congregation members went out of their way to greet us. Whether this was done before, during, or after the service, we remembered their efforts. The message this sent was: this is a church who doesn’t expect the pastor to do all the work of the ministry (we were only greeted by the pastor in several churches). Also, this said to us: “there’s room for more!”.

MMM. So one church gave us a bag of homemade cookies! That was a first and hasn’t been repeated since. Who wouldn’t enjoy cookies for their drive home from church? Taste buds aside, what was important was the message that it sent to us. The cookies said: this church thinks about, plans for, seeks out, and ministers to first time guests.

On another first visit, we were given a tour of the church building prior to the service. Everything from where the bathrooms are to the nursery in the basement were covered. Before the service even started, we felt comfortable and at home there.

As first time guests, one church demonstrated to us the difference between nursery volunteers who supervise vs. nursery volunteers who minister to children. (We’ve been to many a church where the nursery volunteers seem to be more interested in talking to each other than interacting with the children). At this particular church, the nursery workers got on the floor to play with our daughter to help her feel comfortable. It was evident that she was their top priority. And in addition to having a fun and safe nursery experience, she also learned about God.

For a few of the churches (read: 3 churches), we received contact from the pastor within a week or two of having visited for the first time. This took the form of one typed “standard welcome letter” and two that e-mailed us. (It was surprising to me that no church sent a personal, hand-written note. Despite his poor hand writing, this was something Derek did regularly in his ministry – which he received a lot of positive feedback for. Over the years, he was told on several occasions that the hand written note caused the guest to check out our church a second time). Whether it was a typed letter or an e-mail, we greatly appreciated hearing from the church that we had just visited. It helped us to feel noticed, appreciated, welcome. It also sent the message that the pastor/leaders don’t only focus on those who are already there but they also take the time to reach out to those not connected in, yet.

Have you recently been a first time guest in a church? Can you think of something that the church did well that helped you to feel welcome? Would love to hear about it!

 

 

Lesson from our tiny teacher: water, prayer, gratitude

This afternoon, in the midst of playing, our 23 month old stopped and asked me to pray before she drank her water.

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As a result of this simple request, so many thoughts flooded my mind.

I thought of what a gift it is to know that the water she’s about to drink won’t make her sick.

The fact that her “dirty” bath water from last night is much cleaner than what most of the kids in the world will drink today.

And I thought about the reality that we’d all die much sooner without water than food…yet, we bow our heads in thanks for food much more often than for a simple glass of water. Hmm.

Thankful for our tiny teacher. ❤

Pastoral Ministry: the Best and the Hardest

Being in pastoral ministry has its great moments and its challenging ones. Here’s my thoughts on the best and the hardest of them all.

The Best: Getting to know so many different people. Being a pastor’s wife gives me opportunities to meet new people (yay!) and our social network is greatly increased as a result.

The Hardest: Getting to know so many different people.

In regards to the hardest, I’m not talking about those with personality disorders or even the complaints people make (although these aren’t a walk in the park either). Rather, I find the hardest part of being a Pastor’s wife is that we are regularly  exposed to the sadness and suffering that others face. When your network is greatly increased by your husband’s profession as a pastor, you end up knowing more people who are diagnosed with cancer, marriages that are on the rocks, those dealing with childhood trauma, unexpected deaths and you attend funerals more frequently.

As a social worker, I can no longer live in naivety towards human suffering. My profession reminds me of the brokenness of this world on a regular basis. Also, as a pastor’s wife, I also can no longer live in naivety towards human suffering as there’s rarely a week that goes by where someone that we know (as a result of pastoral connections) isn’t heavy on our hearts.

You may be able to appreciate why the best thing about being a pastor’s wife for me is also the hardest. Being in ministry means that we trade some naivety for additional tears and sadness in this life. To know more people (the best) also requires to know more suffering (the hardest).

There you have it, that’s my answer to what’s the best and the hardest part of pastoral ministry as of July 11th, 2013.  If you have a thought, don’t be shy, would love to hear from you in a comment below.