A Warm Welcome?

Disney Grumpy Welcome Rock

As we begin to open up our churches and get back to normal (what ever that might mean!), we hope that some of the people who engaged with our churches and circuit over the Internet will want to engage with us in person. But what will that mean for our churches?

Over the years as I have gone through the stationing process and visited prospective new churches the one thing the church stewards are keen to emphasise is that ‘we are a friendly church’. To be honest I would be surprised if a church ever said it was an unfriendly church! However after a few months into an appointment I feel like saying “You know when you said you are a friendly church…”

Is your Church a friendly church or a church of friends. The two are very different and easily confused by those who are on the inside.

Most churches have some form of welcome on the door but when the visitor arrives will you cut short the deep conversation you are having with some one you spoke to just two days ago and focus all your attention on the visitors?

Do the welcomers take the visitor into the church and help them settle WHERE THEY WANT TO SIT(!) or is the welcomers role to steer them away from the ‘reserved pews’ and into the pews where no one else wants to sit. Or are the visitors simply left on their own to play ‘pew roulette’.

Even if the visitor is fortunate to land on an empty pew would members of the congregation move from their ‘spot’ to go and sit with them too make them welcome or to they twist round in their seats, give them a good stare and ask the person next to them in a loud Methodist whisper “Do you know who they are?”

Does your Church give the visitor a plethora of books and leaflets without any explanation of what they are? (Is it obvious that the black hymn numbers are from the old book and the red ones from the new book – which nobody but the minister likes). Or do you fail to tell the visitor looking for a hymn book that the words of the service will appear on the screen apart from those we know by heart so we don’t bother with those, but that’s OK because where they are sitting they can’t see it any way.

After the service are they taken to the coffee room or simply told where it is? Are they sat at the ‘spare table’ while people put table and chairs together so that they and their friends can all sit and chat ? If you do go over to talk with them do you sit or hover over them like an impatient waiter?

What of you conversation? A very Methodist thing to do is to apologies for the preacher “It’s not our own Minister, just a Local Preacher.” And to the outsider what is a Local Preacher? or the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or the offering?

Do you, in your best jokey voice tell them that we will have to get them on Church Council?

When the visitor leaves do we just ‘hope’ to see them next Sunday or do we ask questions of their experience and what we can do to help them feel more welcome?

Oh yes we’re a welcoming church, it’s just some people don’t want to be welcomed!

God bless, Alan.

2 thoughts on “A Warm Welcome?

  1. Liz Topliss

    A very relevant reflection, something we need to take seriously! We often only get one chance. A minister’s widow once told me when she went new to a church, that she said to the steward some time later, ‘You’re very friendly amongst the people you know’.
    As the wife of a preacher who has often visited other circuits, the steward has greeted the preacher most profusely and whisked him off to the vestry and I’ve stood there thinking ‘hello, I’m here too!’
    We also need to be sensitive to those who want to slip in and out almost unnoticed.
    Food for thought indeed.

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  2. Mrs Julie Ann Read

    All to often we don’t get the balance right from too little to too much! Some people can become overwhelmed with too much and think we don’t care if it’s too little…
    Be led by your spirit to know what is enough or if you feel that they might respond to more.
    Be careful not to overload with questions…but also do ask some!

    I have been both a greeter in church and a new member…so I do know that it is a fine balance, which we seldom get ‘just right’.

    Very valid point from both, especially the wife or husband/partners of whomever is preaching that Sunday’s sermon.

    Let’s all get a bit more Spirit led and put ourselves into the shoes of the people we need to be considering. This could also apply to people coming back to church after a long time away.

    Blessings JulieAnn

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