To me, our church isn’t that large. Sure, the numbers have grown over the past quarter of a century, but I’ve been here through each stage of growth.
On any given service, I can look across our auditorium and see people whom I’ve led to the Lord, baptized, dedicated their babies, and, in many cases, married their children. To me, our church is just family.
But what about the first-time visitor? What about a new member? For newcomers, the only way the church will feel like a family is if people intentionally welcome and integrate them.
Below are some thoughts that I recently shared with our church family on how we can retain the small church feeling by extending ourselves to welcome others. In a church of any size, these principles are vital for growth.
1. Before every service, pray that God will give you someone to reach out to.
Ministry through the local church is not about self-gratification. Having friends and people you serve with is a blessing, but connectedness is really about serving others.
Church growth studies indicate that in a church of any size, most people get to know about sixty other church members. Thus, even when your church grows past sixty people, you are likely to remain in the comfort zone of your circle of people you already know. Our tendency is to find a circle of friends and inadvertently turn our backs on newcomers.
Come to church others-focused. Rather than only fellowshipping with those you already know, look for the visitor and seek out the new member.
Try not to be guilty of not noticing others. Don’t walk past someone you don’t know without taking a moment to greet them and getting to know them. Even when you are busily engaged in ministry, be willing to be inconvenienced enough to reach out to others.
2. Designate yourself as a “section greeter.”
Without prompting or special organization, determine that you will be friendly to everyone in the area where you normally sit. Start by getting to know all of the “regulars” in your section, and then look for anyone who is new.
No one should be able to sit near you without you noticing them and making them feel welcome. Most likely, you are in church today because others were friendly to you. Make it your personal mission to extend the same welcome to others.
3. Help guests connect with others.
As you meet newcomers, remember that you have a purpose—to integrate them into the church family. After you introduce yourself, find out something about them, and then try to introduce them to someone near you who would have something in common with the visitor. Perhaps they work in a similar business or are in the same stage of life.
Especially, you want to take the opportunity to find out if the visitor is saved and encourage him or her to be part of a Sunday school class. In our church, we have found that the Sunday school is a great place to connect and develop relationships. If you are not in the same Sunday school class that the visitor would be in, look for someone near you who is, and introduce them.
Each person who walks through the doors of your church is a trust from God. You may never see that person again. Steward the moment by extending yourself to welcome others.
In any size of church, it takes the work of everyone to make it feel like a small and welcoming church family.