This last weekend we visited a church local to our home. I had met the pastor before and since we did not have a meeting to be in a particular church, we decided to give this church a visit. The church was a class act from the very start.
When we arrived at the church a man met us at the door and noted that we were visitors. He looked on his paper to find out where the Sunday School classes were for our kids. He then grabbed a couple of people walking by and had them walk us to the different classrooms. He also suggested an adult class for my wife and I to attend.
Because the church is in the town where we went to Bible college, there were a few people there whom we knew. I don’t think this had anything to do with the reception we felt as visitors. Everyone was friendly and kind. But not the gushy kind that makes you think someone paid them to be that way. It is just the way they were.
After church we were invited to a short reception in an area that they set up for welcoming visitors. The pastor and a few of the church staff members met us there. We were the only visitors that day, but they were prepared with enough homemade muffins and drinks for probably 10 visitors. We had a good talk with the pastor and no one seemed like they were in a hurry to leave; however, they also did not try to monopolize our time and make us stay.
When we left they gave us each a coffee cup and a friendly smile.
That was not the end though. The next night, Monday, a couple from the church stopped by the house with a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread. They stayed just long enough to thank us for visiting the church and extend an invitation to return.
We felt special.
Contrast that with another church we visited several weeks ago. It was a similar situation in that I had previously met the pastor. We were in his town without a meeting for that Sunday morning service. It was a good opportunity to just stop by.
The reception at the church was cold. The only person who came up to us other than to shake our hand briefly and walk off was the visiting preacher. He came over and chatted and acted interested in us. If the pastor came by before Sunday School or church, I don’t really remember it.
After church we hung around a short time just so that the crowd could thin and I could thank the pastor for teaching a class I was in a couple of months before. He acted like he was in a hurry and did not have time to chit-chat at the back of the church even though there was no one waiting to speak with him.
The church, while full of visitors that day, felt dead. They had a special push to bring visitors to hear the guest speaker. I think there were 20 or more visitors for that service, but none of us were made to feel welcome by the church as a whole. I would hope that those who brought friends did a better job in thanking their friends for being there.
Of course I don’t expect that church to visit in my home since I live about 10 hours away, but I doubt they would have visited if I lived 2 blocks away. It just seemed like they were not interested in adding anyone new to their congregation.
I spoke with a friend who had also visited in that church and he felt the same thing.
Two churches, two very different atmospheres. What are you and your church doing to make visitors feel like they are welcome?