Last week, Shane Lems explored some insightful thoughts on being a welcoming pastor in leading worship and preaching (Welcoming Pastor – Part 2). Here’s Shane continuing to look at the pastor’s interaction with visitors:
Love in Conversation
Another angle of being a welcoming pastor is that we show love in conversations. Whether we talk to visitors (our neighbors!) before or after the service, our love for them should be evident. This was already explained from a biblical perspective earlier in this series (Series Posts), so at this point, I’d like to give some practical application.
It’s always good, if possible, for a pastor to personally welcome visitors face to face. As I mentioned before, when I was a church planter I would do my best to go find the visitors and talk to them. I still try to follow that practice. It wasn’t easy at first, but I did force myself to go welcome visitors. Thankfully, after a short while it became easier and now it is something that comes naturally. The way I see it, me giving a loving welcome to all visitors is one way to show hospitality.
Another aspect of loving in conversation is being accessible. It’s not uncommon for a visitor to want to talk to a pastor, so pastors should be accessible after the service (and in some contexts, before the service). I know from personal experience that sometimes pastors feel like disappearing after the service, but as often as possible we need to be there to welcome our neighbors and speak to them in love.
One final note: I’ve found that visitors often appreciate a follow-up note. Sometimes if the pastor can obtain contact info he can follow up with a written card (snail mail) or send a brief email of encouragement. Sadly, quite a few people have not seen loving pastoral care, so when they do see it, they really appreciate it. This type of love shows our neighbors – visitors – that they are not just a number, but are cared for and loved. Think of it like this: some people have never seen real love before. As we think of that, we want them to hear about the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, and we want to show them Christian love – for the sake of the gospel!
Biblically, a pastor is called to be hospitable, loving, and kind to his neighbor – including those in the pews on Sunday. And there must be a balance: the pastor must not ignore members and only talk to visitors. The pastor cannot neglect the flock! With prayer and wisdom, he must find a good balance. As a pastor lovingly welcomes visitors from the pulpit and in personal conversations, it’s a wonderful reflection of the gospel he preaches week after week. Not only does the pastor preach the love of Christ, but he is also called to put it on display!
Next Up In Series: A Welcoming Congregation