Perhaps the most painful words a pastor hears in this area is when a church visitor says to him or her after several weeks:
“I’ve been here for 6 weeks and still no one has said a word of hello to us.”
How can we miss this?
We have forgotten to think like a church visitor.
Is your church friendly?
Most church members, of any church, would answer that question, â€œYes, weâ€™re friendly!â€.
But is that the answer that your church visitors would give?
Perceptions matter, and friendliness is in the eye of beholder.
Church Visitors come and go to the church and few of your church visitors stick around.
Put yourself in the shoes of a church visitor
Leviticus 19:33-34 says,
â€œWhen an alien lives with you in your hand, do not mistreat him.Â The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native born.
Love him as yourself for you were aliens in Egypt.Â Iâ€™m the Lord your God.â€
The Israelite was not to oppress the alien in their midst because they knew how it felt to be an alien in the midst of another social group.Â They could think and feel like the alien in their midst.Â They could empathize.
You were the church visitor once.
Think about your volunteers.
Think about yourself.
The fact is you were once a first-time church visitor.Â You were once a first-time visitor to this congregation or the congregation where you are at.
You were the alien once.
You can identify what it was like to be the church visitor for the very first time.
Informal but intentional
I recently spoke with a pastor of a medium size church of 300.
He has often heard from people after 6-10 weeks this statement that broke his heart: “I have been here x number of weeks and no one has said hello.”
(After a recent workshop on hospitality, one couple said “We’ve been in this church for 6 months and no one has noticed us.”)
Recently, this pastor took a sabbatical and visited other churches outside of his tradition.
He was the first time church visitor.
The experience of visiting congregations opened his eyes to the power of hospitality ministries in helping a church visitor feel welcome.Â He summed up the best experience as “Informal but intentional.”
When he returned from sabbatical, he wants to cast the vision for hospitality ministry so that congregations members can see the power of such a ministry.
His experience opened his eyes.