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Is Your Church Showing A Welcoming Face

Thu, Dec. 15, 2016 Posted: 01:39 PM


We live in trying times, but as church communities, we must always prioritize the call to welcome the stranger, whoever they are – so what is your church doing? If you think greeting newcomers at the passing of the peace or pasting an “all welcome” sign on your door is doing enough, you’re falling short and it’s unlikely you have many new faces coming through your doors. It takes more to present a welcoming face to the community.

To live in the spirit of inclusion is to the throw the doors open wide, but that takes many symbolic acts. If your church is hoping to grow its membership or just bring more community members by for a visit, these simple strategies may help you demonstrate your openness.

Beyond Youth Group

Keeping youth in church after confirmation age or past high school graduation and attracting young adults are two keys to maintaining a living, thriving church – so where are all the young people? It’s a tricky question that can only be answered by looking more closely at our broader culture and how we speak to that culture as a church community.

For youth still at home with their parents, church often falls by the wayside because the family is busy pursuing what Michelle Anthony calls the “abundant life.” In trying to be part of too many things, the family pulls focus away from God and the church loses priority. When parents don’t model the importance of participation in church life, children don’t learn to center their own spiritual lives.

 In order to bring families back, you need to offer a taste of that escapism their chasing and help them see that God is the only real path to clarity and happiness. Offer both family-focused activities that encourage parents to bring young children and spaces for youth to enjoy with their friends from the community. Encouraging teens to bring their friends is one of the most important things you can do.

 Cut the Cheese

It’s more challenging to attract young adults, whether or not they were raised in the church, because they’re at an age where they’re forming their own life practices and identity. At the same time, you can appeal to who these young people want to be in your move to welcome them.

The most important thing you should do to encourage participation by young adults is to skip the gimmicks. That means you should skip the cringe-worthy church signs, the ones that feature puns about salvation and peace. They make your church sound like the corny dad these young people are specifically trying to avoid. Instead, any signage you do use needs to clearly communicate a message of authenticity.

Whether you like it or not, in this day and age, your message as a church is the same as your brand and your signs need to communicate your message of welcome and love. Clear, professional signage is more likely to attract young people who just want the facts about your services and activities, not a bad joke.

Keep It Light

When welcoming people to your church, make sure to approach them, ask their name, and how they came to be there – but keep it light. It’s often best to assign one or two people who know the community well to look out for new faces and greet them so that visitors aren’t approached by a dozen strangers. Some people will enjoy talking to the congregation, but some are hesitantly testing the waters, and you don’t want to overwhelm them.

It’s more important to serve visitors in concrete ways than to make sure many congregants introduce themselves. Instead of focusing on maximum interactions, then, focus on quality ones. Make sure that greeters help families find appropriate seating, show them the guest book, or offer them an information card. If you have crayons and coloring sheets for children, or other activities, offer them. These moves to make visitors’ experiences at your church simpler and more enjoyable mean more to the people you’re welcoming than a barrage of names and pamphlets.

Welcome looks different to different people and in different congregations, so it’s important to assess where your church’s weak spots are, who in your community you may not be serving, and think about what modes of welcome are relevant in those cultures. Maybe it’s an invitation to a meal or a musical event. Maybe it’s going into the neighborhood and meeting people there. To master the art of welcoming as a church, the best path is to open your ears and your heart and listen.

Sophia Mixon