The Christmas season brings a special opportunity for congregations to welcome guests into their worship services. These individuals may be extended family members, inactive members, former members, or random guests from the community. They may be there because of the wishes of a grandparent, or they are home for the holidays and it’s expected, or maybe they are trying to impress potential in-laws. Their visit could be simply a family tradition. Guests might also want to make a fresh start or may be honestly searching for God.
How can we effectively connect, or reconnect, these guests to Jesus and His church and help them feel truly welcome?
Careful planning of the festival worship service and sermon preparation to be as inclusive as possible is certainly necessary. However, other approaches are also critical for guests to feel truly welcomed. Here are five attitudes to share with your greeters, ushers, and regular attendees:
- An attitude of welcome is different than friendly.
Most congregations are friendly. They may be friendly with each other, but not necessarily welcoming to someone coming from the outside. What’s the difference between being friendly and welcoming? A smile is friendly; a handshake with an introduction is welcoming.
- Risk your own comfort zone by introducing yourself before asking who they are.
Lead with a handshake, look them warmly in the eye, and say, “Hello, my name is ___. I recognize (or do not recognize) your face, we’re so glad you here, what’s your name?” Engage them in light conversation by asking a simple friendly lead-in question such as: “Do you live in the area?” “How did you hear about our services?”
- Assume no one knows where the restroom is located!
Take a look at your signage; if the restroom is not clearly marked, consider a sandwich board with directions aptly placed. Help people out; give them a shot at finding the restroom themselves without having to ask.
- Be willing to sit with them and guide them through the service as needed.
Here is where you are going to enlist not only your greeters and ushers, but your regular attenders. They can be a big help in not only offering a warm welcome, but helping visitors feel comfortable with service folders, hymnals, or the elements of worship like the offering and/or communion.
- Introduce them to at least one or two other individuals or families. Introducing them to the pastor doesn’t count.
This can be a powerful connection. Through your conversation find something similar with someone else in your congregation and introduce them to each other, just so they have one more touch. One pastor has half of the ushers and greeters wear badges to signify their responsibility. The ushers and greeters who are not wearing the badge are still doing their job, but the guest does not know. This type of serving has a completely different impact, because it is not perceived as a responsibility or obligation.
These are not the only attitudes to provide a welcoming spirit in your people; there certainly are many others. But share these points with your congregation in the weeks leading up to Christmas Eve during your regular worship, Advent services, Bible studies, meetings, or other gatherings to prepare your people to be truly receptive and welcoming.
The best gift you can give guests at Christmas is certainly connecting them to Jesus; and so is the gift of a genuine warm welcome.
The Michigan District held a Webinar entitled, “Welcoming Those Who Visit Church at Christmas.” Click on the link for more insights and ideas.
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