Many people know who Glenn Beck the conservative radio personality is. But did you know that Glenn was raised Catholic, but was not practicing anything when he decided his family needed to go to church? Glenn Beck is reported as saying his family tried all churches, "Unitarian, Episcopalian, Baptist, even a synagogue." His family ended up with the Church of Latter-day Saints. Why? Because his daughter said, "this place makes us feel warm and welcome inside. Can we come back?" (USA Weekend Feb. 19-21, 2011 "Don't judge Beck by his cover" by Dennis McCafferty).
Glenn Beck and his family are Mormons today because a Mormon church showed them kindness and welcomed them. I wonder how many people have turned down the opportunity to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ because a congregation of the Lord's church did not welcome them? many individuals have either turned to or away from the Lord because of the welcome extended or neglected by the local congregation.
Now imagine yourself as a first-time visitor. Church buildings are often intimidating. Even though it is not a Biblical concept, some people have the feeling that church buildings are somewhat sacred. They often secretly, even unconsciously, feel that if they do or say the wrong thing, they will somehow desecrate this "Holy Place."
Of course, we know that this is not what the Bible teaches, but that does not calm the fears of our visitors. Imagine yourself as a visitor struggling with these feelings of intimidation but wanting to worship God and have fellowship with God's people. Would you feel comfortable visiting your congregation?
For those in the body of Christ who are accustomed to attending worship services, these things never come up. We may think of our congregation as warm and friendly because we enjoy it. However, many people find their first visit to any congregation unwelcoming.
Think of the impact that would be made upon guests if every member was looking for guests to greet and welcome. The impact is enormous, yet the time investment minimal. The time before and after worship services are very important because so much fellowship and interaction takes place. Paul even expressed the idea of being friendly and greeting one another in Rom 16:16, "Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you."
All Christians should be concerned about greeting guests at every service. Here are some suggestions that may help each of us in greeting those who visit the services of the church:
Go to guests and do not wait for them to come to you.
Welcome them to the assembly.
Greet all age groups, and especially children.
After you have met them, help introduce them to others.
Especially if they have children, show them their classroom, nursery and the restrooms.
Make sure they received a bulletin and handouts.
Ask them to sit with you.
Invite them back to services and to other church activities.
Invite them to the potluck dinner if there is one after services or take them out to eat.
Remember: "A man who has friends must himself be friendly..." (Proverbs 18:24). Be the friendliest congregation in your area!
- Mark T. Tonkery