Welcome to Moes! If you’ve been there you’ve heard it. It’s sort of a greeting. It’s also sort of a policy. That can shave a little of the “dear” off endearing, but heck, it’s a stab at hospitality. At the very least, you’ve been noticed. They know you exist.
When it comes to expressing hospitality in the church gathering, there’s a wide range of receptivity to being welcomed that runs from “can’t you see I’m hiding under a rock and don’t want to noticed or approached?” to “you can come at me like a herd of Labrador puppies, I’ve got a towel.”
There is a tension that exists between acknowledging and respecting a person’s privacy and expressing the warmth and love of Christ through a sincere welcome. But how do you read this accurately 100% of the time? You don’t! Yet each of us still has the spiritual responsibility of assisting in the process of turning first time guests into fully developing church members. You can take this to the bank . . . . these guests are God’s gift to the fellowship. No-one really comes through our doors by chance. God is giving us the opportunity to cooperate with Him to move someone forward in their journey toward or with Jesus. Have you ever considered looking at things this way?
Andy Stanley has said, “A church is a family expecting guests.” While they are in our company, they need to feel safe, comfortable and valued no matter where they are in their station of life or spiritual development. Not to over sensationalize the point, but scripture makes a curious statement saying “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it.” Hebrews 13:2 (NLT) Stellar guest interaction doesn’t happen by default. Our efforts must be intentional and flow out of, rather overflow from the love God has for the lost, the wandering and His church. In these efforts, our church represents the kingdom of God, and each of us, for better or worse, represents our church.
In our church, there is a lot of effort to create a welcoming environment. Whether you realize it or not, the first impressions you and I give help shape a guests receptivity to our church and to Jesus before they even hear a first note from the worship team or a word from our Pastor’s message. And don’t think the Enemy isn’t doing his part to sow pre-service defensiveness and negativity into our guests’ emotions. It may have been a while since you’ve experienced visiting a new church for the first time, but it can be an experience loaded with nervousness, anxiety, speculation and even suspicion. Bad memories from past experiences can rise with ferocious intensity, clouding even our best efforts.
We have a great group of “people lovers” at our church who we call our Guest Services Team. They do a wonderful job welcoming people each week and being proactive enough to give our guests a good reason to return the next week. Guests who comment back to us frequently cite how welcome they felt during their initial visit. These are true “win” situations. But Guest Services is just a small component of the Hospitality Team we have at our disposal each week. There’s me and there’s you. You don’t have to be an extrovert to make eye contact, smile and say “Good morning, I’m glad to see you,” or “Hi, my name’s _____ and I’m glad you joined us today.” You don’t have to be a hugger, it’s probably best that you don’t. But when you see someone sitting alone or who doesn’t look “connected,” a good Southern smile and a “Hi, how are you” will usually work wonders.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture in which the business world understands more about true expressions of hospitality than the church does. Even Moes makes an effort . We can do better. I’m smiling as I say “Welcome to New Life.” Think About It.