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Be Welcoming: Offer Everyone a Sense of Belonging

July 25, 2007

I can understand why it would be important to tell a coffee shop employee that this is important, I mean they might think they are there to sell coffee not make people feel welcome, but what about church?

This past Sunday Lori and the kids were out of town at a church camp so I went to worship with a group whose Pastor I know. Not one person spoke to me the entire time I was there. Well, to put it correctly I did talk to a guy who I think was acting as an usher but he just got mad at me for asking about chairs. He pointed to two separate chairs in the back row lodged between a sea of people I didn’t know to show me that they indeed had empty seats.

I commented that he must not understand personal space when he fired off that the front row was empty, he planned on having a seat there when the message began. I had to explain to the man that I wasn’t complaining about seating but commenting because I thought it was a good problem to have.

Everyone had a seat before the message began so I went down front past these people I didn’t know to plop down in the front which, with everyone seated, I could now see was almost entirely empty.

The Pastor then instructed everyone to greet someone they didn’t know around them before the message began. I waited to be greeted and technically am still waiting to be greeted. No one said hello or hi or even excuse me that is my seat.

Welcoming. So a coffee shop tells its people to be welcoming, that everyone should have a sense of belonging and at church we expect people to feel what? Superior? Lost? Unwanted and a little awkward? I’m not really sure, maybe environment has a lot to do with that. We give a small window for welcome time so maybe they only have time to make those they already know feel welcome.

Do we set up our church experience in such a way that it makes welcoming others hard or difficult? Is giving a 30 second welcoming period between worship and the message counter productive in making people feel welcome? Is the real welcome time afterward and if so how does someone who doesn’t feel welcome know this?

I don’t know for sure. How would people view your fellowship? Would they call it welcoming? If you wanted to find out I would ask a coworker, neighbor or acquaintance to come and visit your fellowship and give you their feedback. What was the experience like? Who talked to you? Etc. If you really want to be daring go to your local Starbucks and ask a Barista to do it for you, wouldn’t that be ironic? (This idea is presented in Jim and Casper Go to Church)

Tell them that you are not trying some back door conversion, you just want to improve your fellowship and then have them come. Offer some cash incentive if that helps, lunch afterwards or a twenty.

How welcoming would they say your group is? Shouldn’t we know this? If a coffee shop understands the need for belonging shouldn’t the church?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. johndobbs permalink
    July 25, 2007 5:04 pm

    Darin, this whole series has just been outstanding. You’re asking all the right questions. Thanks!

  2. July 25, 2007 5:13 pm

    Darin have you seen this post from a Christian WordPress Blogger?

    http://religionarticles.wordpress.com/2007/07/25/where-have-the-christians-gone-are-you-even-out-there/

  3. July 25, 2007 7:34 pm

    Oh, just to add I did ask a local Barista and she declined due to corporate policy. I tried to convince her that it wasn’t competition and I just thought we could learn a thing or two from her outside eyes.

    It was a no go. Let me know how it works for you.

  4. July 26, 2007 4:50 am

    Darin,
    I totally agree with JD. It has been very encouraging to me. Great series brother. God bless. I hope you have a great weekend. I say that because I am starting my weekend on Thursday! 🙂

  5. July 26, 2007 5:18 pm

    Thanks guys.

    We will see how it impacts my ministry. I am currently creating our own little green apron style cards.

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