Have you ever seen the TV show Cheers? You know, that bar where the same group of people hang out on a regular basis, sharing their ups and downs over a pint or two. In the show, you receive a warm welcome when you walk through the door. People are glad to see you. They remember your name. They care about what’s happening in your life. When you walk inside, you’re family and you belong. To steal a line from my pastor…church should be at least as welcoming as a bar.
Visitors Are People, Too
Do you remember what it’s like to be new to a group and not know anyone? It can be lonely and intimidating. Being new to a church can sometimes feel like there are a bunch of cliques where everyone already has their group of friends and you’re on the outside. Sure there are some people who want to slip in and out of church unnoticed, but most people want to belong and often need a little help getting involved.
I’ve visited lots of churches alone over the years. At one church after visiting a college & career group a few times, I liked the people but didn’t feel any major connections. After my third visit I was walking out the door, not planning to come back again, when a girl I had met earlier called out my name, ran across the room and said she wanted to say how great it was to meet me and she hoped to see me again. Guess what? After that I decided to come back again and ended up making friends and staying in the group for a couple of years.
Often, it just takes one person genuinely connecting with a visitor to bring them back again.
Let’s Get Over Our Excuses
I am thankful that my church has lots of genuine people who are warm and welcoming. I am sometimes very welcoming to guests but too often I stick to talking with people I already know. I’m a big introvert and even though in my heart I want to welcome the visitors, striking up a conversation with a stranger makes me feel uncomfortable. And I don’t like to feel uncomfortable. Do you know what that is?
A bad excuse!
I remember years ago at one church I used to be in charge of the greeters and I would often tell church “regulars” to get over their excuses and insecurities and greet visitors anyway. Because its what we should be doing. Now I am convicted that I need to take my own advice and start being more intentional about welcoming visitors like I used to. Even more so after bringing a guest with me to church recently, I am reminded of just how important it is to go out of my way to welcome visitors. I was so thankful for those who reached out to my guest and took the time to have a two-minute conversation. I was grateful! Yes, my guest was “with me” and not alone, but it still makes a huge impact when other people make a point to say hello and take a genuine interest in a new person.
Jesus Would Welcome Visitors
I know, I know…I’m pulling the “Jesus card”. But really, Jesus was the ultimate welcomer. He got to know people. He spent time with them. He made them feel special and He was genuine. And while He spoke hard-hitting truth into their lives, He did it with such love and grace that it made the person actually want to become better and healthier. Imagine that. Jesus called out people’s true identities and let them know that they are somebody worthy of His time and interest. For us, this can start with saying hello to a visitor at church.
This weekend will you let go of your excuses and join me in being more like Jesus?