May 14, 2008

Welcoming People in Christ

I believe there are five steps necessary for evangelism and church growth.
Draw --> Welcome --> Connect --> Assimilate --> Disciple

The first necessary ingredient for evangelism and church growth is we have to have something that is drawing people into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

The second ingredient necessary for personal evangelism and church growth is we have to welcome people.

One of the things I did not mention in the last entry is that our churches have to be the type of churches our members have no problems inviting people to. Many of our members would like to invite people to our churches but they don't because they know that an outsider would not feel welcomed, or be bored, or whatever. If we're serious about growing God's Kingdom, we've got to get serious about why our people are not inviting people to our churches. And then we have to get serious about getting rid of all the obstacles in the way.

If we are going to invite people to church and to discover a relationship with Jesus Christ, the second thing we need to make sure is that we be a welcoming church.

Imagine if you were invited over to a house where you didn't know anyone but the person who invited you. And they asked you to come over at a particular time and when you show up, they are not there. That's the first problem most new comers to the church experience. If you are going to invite someone to church, either pick them up or arrange to meet them in the entrance or the parking lot. And make sure you get there earlier than your guest.

In the same scenario, imagine that you show up at this person's house and as soon as someone lets you in the door, they go off doing their thing, and the rest of the family is busy going about their own business and you are left there standing in the entrance way by yourself twiddling your thumb. We would never do that to a guest in our own homes. And yet this is the experience almost all new comers have in our churches.

If you're serious about growing, you've got to make sure that your members and welcomers know how to welcome people.

This welcoming process starts with parking. Make sure that you reserve the best parking spaces for visitors, elderly, parents with small children.

Second, make sure you have your best greeters at the door who can usher them to a welcoming center. It doesn't have to be extravagant. It just needs to be welcoming and have people who have the gift of hospitality.

Third, just as you would expect your family members to treat your guest well, train your members to welcome visitors. One of our goals at Trinity is to make sure that a new person has at least three face to face conversations with our members before they enter the sanctuary.

If you see someone who is obviously new, go and introduce yourself. "Hi, my name is James. Welcome to Trinity Presbyterian Church. I see that you've got a couple of kids with you. Let me show you to our children's ministry section and introduce you to the children's minister." That's not that hard. Everyone can do that. And yet a welcome like that will speak volumes about your church.

Another area where many churches fail visitors is with signs. We know where everything is because we've been going to this church for years. But a visitor has no idea where anything is and most are already feeling awkward. They are not going to ask for directions. Clear signs that point to your main ministry areas are vital to a visitor.

There are many other practical things you can do to welcome a visitor. But the best way to think about welcoming people is to envision the church as your home. How would you treat your guests at home. Take that same thought process and apply it to your church.

More to come tomorrow.

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