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Seven Habits of Highly Effective Churches 2

7 habits of highly effective churches

Habit 2 – Be Welcoming

Imagine, for a moment, being a new person arriving at your church. How could you have found out about the church, about the service? How are you greeted when you come through the door? Be honest.

If you have never been to church before, ever, what is your experience? If you have never been to this type of church before, ever, what is your experience? Be honest.

If you are coming to church because your wife just walked out on you… if you are a young mum arriving with three young children… if you are a teenager… if you are just retired into the area… do you feel welcome? Do you feel included in at least some parts of the service, or is the theme so constraining there is hardly a moment that you connect with? Is everyone in suits, how do you feel dressed casually? Is everyone dressed casually – how do you feel in a suit? Are you a young man in a building full of older women? Does this church clearly not want real children present in its worship?

ἦσαν δὲ προσκαρτεροῦντες τῇ διδαχῇ τῶν ἀποστόλων καὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ τῇ κλάσει τοῦ ἄρτου καὶ ταῖς προσευχαῖς
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
κοινωνίᾳ koinonia fellowship

Enabling people to experience welcome and be included is a ministry of all the baptised. Ordinary human practices of welcoming and general politeness of human encounters are sometimes (often?) missing at the church door, and so (regular, ongoing) training of welcomers may be required. Including not being overbearing. How to help people throughout a service, how to relate to children present may (let’s continue being honest with ourselves) need to be talked about from time to time.

The ordained and other leadership have a particular role in allowing all to feel included.

I walked in unexpected into a church service. Yes, the priest had met me before, but well out of context, it was a delight to be greeted by name. The priest was greeting all by name, and continued doing this throughout the service. The priest found out the names of visitors and remembered them. There was an easy flow to the cuppa following the service. Other members of the community approached naturally. The community was packed and obviously growing, clearly knew each other, cared for each other, and for newcomers. If you lived there, you would happily join this community.

At another church there was a general invitation from the front to the small congregation to the cuppa following the service. But no specific instructions. Shaking hands on going out, there was no interest if I was new to the area or a visitor, and nothing about the cuppa or where it was. I got completely lost between the church building and the obscure small room for the cuppa. Persevering, I was not approached there, and finally did the approaching. A young woman in her early 20s described her similar experiences to me, including not finding the cuppa on her first visit. She returned to church because of her commitment.

What can you add about this second habit: helping people experience welcome and being included?

The first habit is: Focus on God

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9 Responses to Seven Habits of Highly Effective Churches 2

  1. Teresa says:

    I started attending the church I’m at now when I had only been living in this new city for 2 months. I didn’t know anybody in town except for the one friend who had recommended the church to me. I kept coming back because of the welcome I received. It was honestly as simple as one person saying hello to me while we waiting in the hand-shaking line as we exited the nave, striking up a conversation, and then introducing me to somebody else…who then introduced me to somebody else, and so forth. The congregation put in effort to learn my name and a little bit about my background and make sure that I got introduced to people who shared some of those interests. When I came back the next week – get this – people REMEMBERED MY NAME. It seems to me that for such a welcome to be offered, a community must know who its members are…this allows for recognition of when there’s a new face around. I feel loved and cared for at this church; and even really enjoyed being asked to join the altar guild, because to me that was a sign that I ‘belong’!

  2. davidearle says:

    I was doing a bit of work at our church today outside and saw some friends in the carpark. Their first concern was whether it was even ok to be on the property. I realised how much we need to make it clear to people that it is ok to come by and have a look.
    And I wonder how many people wouldn’t go to a church unless they were invited?

    • Bosco Peters says:

      Thanks, David. Great points: the perception of church as a private spirituality club for paid-up, signed-in members only. And, yes, I think there is a whole group of people that wouldn’t go to church unless invited – or flip that: would go to church if invited (accompanied). Blessings.

  3. Robert W M Greaves says:

    I still remember with some awe the local church I went to on one of my annual trips home to visit my parents, who are not church-goers. TWO YEARS later the priest remembered who I was.

  4. david earle says:

    I have just been trying to find, without much success, a short general explanation of what Lent means for Anglicans – one that would be useful to visitors to our website. The best I came up with is the reflection on your site here, Bosco. Which is quite good, but still assumes people know something about Lent and Easter.
    So relevance to this thread? If we are going to welcome people, we have to explain what we are on about. So much of what we do we take for granted because we grew up with it. Nearly, everything I could find on Lent from Anglicans (and Catholics) assumed that ‘of course you would know what Lent is’. There were a couple of exceptions, but they used words like “penitential rite”, so not so helpful to the newcomer.
    (and there is something vaguely wrong about adding a link to Wikipedia)
    So if we really want to have people come and take an interest in what we are doing, we are going to have to start explaining what we are doing in ways they understand.
    Our bible study group includes a person who is just exploring Christianity and she asks the greatest questions, like “What’s liturgy?”

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