Welcome people well by telling them what their next step “in” would look like.
You know your church. Your regulars know your church. But the new person doesn’t. So, you can’t just assume they’re going to find their way in to the community and life of the church. In fact, not telling them is quite unloving.
So it might be worth describing it for them, help them picture the type of thing they’d choose to do next to step into the church family.
It might look something like, “Look, we’d love you to make this your church, but that can be a really vague decision, can’t it. Most people either stumble into church families, or they don’t. If you wanted to start making that decision yourself, I reckon the next step for you would be to sign up, and come along to…”
As you welcome new people to church, one (of the many) things to be aware of is how willing they are to join church on church’s terms or on their own terms.
The person who comes to church on their own terms is the one who is overly wary of filling in a feedback form, overly cautious about being invited to a lunch, overly suspicious about being invited to think about joining a group. They aren’t willing to be part of the church family on the church family terms. They want to work out their own unique way of being part of it… or not being part of it. This CAN be for good reasons, however it’s sadly usually because they think themselves too important to ever do what normal people do. They think they need special treatment. Ironically, they do… They especially need to be encouraged to repent of pride.
On the other hand, other people come to church on church’s terms. They are willing to be led by the hand and helped into church, into the church family.
… assists, coaches, supports and facilitates your regulars to welcome new people.
If Max brings Bob to church, you don’t just want Bob to get support as he joins. You also want to support Max and help him support Bob as he joins. If you only support Bob, Max learns that the “church” will do the welcoming. And next time he meets a new person, he’ll just assume that the “church” is looking after them. Not much scope for growth there.
If you support Max as he helps Bob to join church, not only will Bob join but you’ll also be teaching Max that welcoming is something that all Christians do. Some will do it better than others, but he’ll see that it’s worthwhile, hard, and he’ll be more keen to support others as they bring along new people too.
I friend of mine once went to a church that did the logistics of welcoming really well! They had greeters at the car-park, paths, gates and doors. they smiled and nodded at you as you walked in. But they didn’t say anything. Not even a hello. They were heard chatting to each other after you walked past, but they didn’t say anything as they greeted people.
Guess what? My friend didn’t actually feel very welcomed.
Words matter to humans. Words bring clarity and certainty to actions. So don’t just do welcoming, speak welcoming.
Name tags can be used really badly. Welcoming new people by making them put on a name tag is rarely a good idea. But why?
The value of name tags is to help create group identity.
Asking people who aren’t sure if they want to be in the group to wear a sign of being “in” just doesn’t work. They know they’re not “in” and wearing a name tag says they are “in”.
So why not using it when you gather together the people who are already “in”? Training events, Conferences, even getting a few Growth GRoups together for a social night. They are good opportunities to bring out the ol’ name tags and consolidate the group-ness.
Also, as group gets bigger, you can’t expect people to actually know the names of all the other people who are “in”. So make it easy on them and give them name tags.
Some Christians just want quality for quality’s sake, or they think we need to match the world around us. Some Christians are wary of quality because they think its about manipulating feelings and that its all smoke a mirrors. But the true motivation for Christians and churches doing things well is love.
Doing things with a high degree of quality is part of making sure people don’t fall through the cracks. If you don’t welcome people to church “well” (read “with a certain degree of quality”) they won’t know how to connect. If you don’t run the Sunday meeting well, they won’t know what’s going on. If you don’t ask for feedback cards or follow them up, or run evangelistic courses well, people will fall through the cracks.
But some people will say something like, “But you don’t need to exert effort to make these things quality, you don’t need to create quality systems and programs… The Christians at church can do a quality job just on their own. You don’t need feedback cards if the individuals are just loving the new people.”
Yep, and who’s going to train them to do a quality job?
And who’s going to oversee that, when 30% of your congregation is new? Surely they need to do a quality job?
Can you see how that same love that starts with wanting to look after people, as the number of people grow and the number of people to love grows, requires and motivates love-fuelled quality in Christian ministry?
I heard this line recently and its so true.
No matter what strategy you put in place; lets take welcoming as an example… if there’s not a culture of loving the new people, getting to know them and engage them in conversation, your strategy will fail.
So if culture eats strategy for breakfast, it really focuses the goal of your strategy… how are you going to change your culture?