In this series of posts, we will consider the practices of other churches that share some similarities with the OPC, though also some significant differences. With some of the examples (ten in number), we may see some ways in which their practice is inconsistent with our doctrinal commitments, but also hopefully learn from these brothers and sisters in Christ. In particular, we hope to learn more effective ways to welcome new people into the language and culture of our worship, practice, and life as a church.
Hospitality Team: A church I know well has a hospitality team each week. In our circles the immediate picture might be bringing snacks and making coffee. And we have greeters to hand out bulletins at the door. This church gathers about 8-10 people each week for hospitality. They gather before the service to pray for the visitors who come and for their service to the visitors. Then 15 minutes prior to the service they disperse. 2-3 are sent to formally greet and hand out bulletins at the door. The rest? They are asked to make new people feel welcome. Here’s what that looks like: Instead of walking around and just saying hi to new people and moving on, they each walk around and look for people who look new or alone. They look for someone who they can easily interact with—single woman looks for other women or a couple instead a single guy etc. Instead of a quick greeting in passing, they sit near them and intentionally welcome them and strike up a conversation. They try to find out if they have any needs—moving into the area and need help moving, starting a new job—could they introduce the visitor to someone in that industry at the church. After the service, they touch base again and maybe introduce them to others or a pastor. The best at this remember the person and look for them in the future.
Initial Reformed Reaction: Probably nothing theological. For some it might feel too manufactured or unnatural. In many small churches, it may feel like overkill or unneeded. What if there are no visitors or only one…are we singling them out?
Principle that transfers: This is a great way to be intentional and really welcome people to the church and even serve them. For those that it feels unnatural, I think in reality it’s just being intentional in an area we are not accustomed to being intentional. For the small churches, start out small with greeters and 2 other people and see how it goes. If there are no visitors, keep doing it and keep praying until there are.
I love that the people who do this in the example thought of how to best be welcoming on their own. The pastors just told them to make people feel welcome. They realized quickly that having 8-10 people walk up to each visitor and say hi and move on isn’t helpful or that welcoming so they figured out that splitting up and spending your time with one person or family is much better. Visitors leave with a solid contact in the church, maybe some connection for a need they have, and feeling like they got a little picture of the church.
Like some of the other ideas we are looking at, this requires the right people to do it. It works well with people who are natural with people, know how to strike up conversation and not get weird or burden people, especially if the visitor isn’t as interested as we would hope. They don’t have to be perfect by any means and a wide range of personalities work just fine, but odd, socially unaware, or agenda driven folks could probably be better used somewhere else.