When we moved, we began the search for a new church – a body of believers that gather together to worship, disciple, serve, admonish, and encourage one another.
I am a “PK” (Pastor’s Kid) and “MK” (Missionary Kid) and have never been a part of a local church without first having some sort of connection (be it through my parents or husband). Our family’s relocation meant that, for the first time in my life, I would seek and enter the church door as a complete stranger from the street.
The experience was transforming because it gave me a new sensitivity and understanding about what it is like to be on this side of the equation.
Here are a few things that I do differently as a result. If you are a part of local church body, I would encourage you to do the same!
- If there is an unfamiliar face or I don’t know their name, I make a point to greet them and introduce myself. It is not solely the job of the greeter to make visitors feel welcome – it’s mine! It is intimidating and even scary to walk through the doors of an unknown church. When we visit a new church, it is much easier to relax or ask questions when it is clear that we were welcome to be there! The churches that had many who took the initiative to say hello, ask if we needed direction, and inquired about our family were the ones we walked away from saying, “Wow, they really seem to care!”
- Look for opportunities to offer direction or give needed instruction. When you walks into a church for the first time, you don’t know where to find anything. Signs on the wall may help guide but nothing can beat a friendly smile and a human voice. One Sunday, Eric and I were trying to figure out what class to attend by looking through the brochure of information that we were given. We barely had a minute to read the class descriptions, when a lady passing by asked if she could help. Her observation of others in her proximity and willingness to step outside her comfort zone, gave us the personal contact that we needed in that moment.
- Invite a newcomer to be a part of activities and opportunities. Is there a special event coming up? Is there a class or group that the newcomer might want to check out? As we were asked various questions about our family from friendly people in one church, they took the information we gave them and provided us with opportunities to get involved. One of the biggest impressions made on me was after a service when two couples engaged us. They discovered that we had no personal connections to the area and the remark was made that it must be hard. I shared that I had been feeling isolated and was excited to meet people. Before we left that conversation, one of the ladies handed me a paper with her information and asked if we could get our kids together for a play date. I was amazed by her proactive response to my comment about feeling alone and the step she took to begin building relationship! That is the kind of character I want to have wherever God plants me (both within and outside the church)!
You may see a stranger next Sunday but, remember, you’re a stranger to them too. Your home church is your comfort zone so be the one to reach out and let visitors know you care and they are welcome!