Friday, December 19, 2014

Are people 'welcome' or welcome?

'Everyone welcome!' proclaims the poster outside the church. Is this a statement of fact, or a piece of marketing? It all depends on what happens when they turn up:

We all have people drifting into our churches from time to time. If they receive the right sort of welcome and feel they found a place where they can belong, a valuable start has been made. Here then is a 30 second checklist:
Outside: If the noticeboard is out of date and the grounds overgrown then the building is giving the impression of death and no-one will want to go near …
Inside: Solid wooden doors, long paths, dark porches, doors which don’t tell you whether to push or pull, poor signage and lack of disabled access are all things that seem small to us but which can put huge barriers in the way of a visitor. Remember, visitors will be embarrassed, nervous and unsure of themselves.
Welcome: The single most important factor in the first 30 seconds is the person you meet first on getting through the door … someone who smiles, is genuinely pleased to see people, and will enquire after the names of newcomers and show them to a seat is one of the most vital parts of a church.
Atmosphere: Walking into a buzz of conversation can seem friendly to those on the inside, but for a new person it can be intimidating because they feel that everyone has friends except them! The best atmosphere is one of prayer with music playing gently in the background so that the silence is compelling rather than embarrassing.
simple, but crucial. How welcoming is your church this Christmas?

update: just failed badly on the 30 second test at last nights service, what's the point in blogging this stuff if I then ignore it?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting thoughts. And helpful as well. I know that our parish is welcoming and we never leave a stranger 'in the cold' so to speak. But we also allow them space for themselves. Not everyone wan't immediate, intimate contact.

    We are fortunate to have a team of committed, experienced welcomers whose judgement is impeccable and who always note visitors or newcomers and provide the opportunities for more contact if they want it. This extends widely among the congregation and to our clergy and ministry team. It's part of our mission statement and something that we take very seriously indeed.

    That first encounter will influence the views of visitors and newcomers alike - and it's beholden upon us for their sake to help them see God's grace among us.