My mama was the queen of hospitality; it was surely her spiritual gift! Growing up, company at our house was always expected. Back then, people just dropped in for supper, and Mama always welcomed them warmly and fed them well! She did all that she could so that no one ever left our house feeling unloved or hungry. No one!
My beloved wife is the new queen of hospitality. These days, most people don’t come unannounced. When we’re expecting company every drawer, closet, and cabinet is alphabetized and the house is made ready. Before the company arrives, everything is prepared so that when they drive up we are can greet them warmly at the driveway and walk them into our home. We do everything possible to make our guests feel welcome and at home in our home.
I’m sure your home is the same. What are some of the things you do to prepare for expected company?
Ever thought about how someone feels when they arrive at your church? Here’s an illustration:
What if you went out into your neighborhood and walked up to the door of a home; one that you did not know the residents. You don’t bother to knock, but you reach out and turned the door knob to open the door. What might you be expecting to find? Probably some very surprised residents. What might be your feelings at the time? Very nervous!!
Those of us who were born in the church and have been in and out of churches all of our lives have no problem; seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all. We know Baptists! However, when the unchurched walk up to our church doors, they’re walking into “our territory”; it’s almost like walking up to an unknown home, barging in, and saying, “we’re here!” What might they be expecting? What might they be feeling? What can we do to make them feel warmly welcome like Mama’s house or prepared as my wife does in our home?
The question is: Are you expecting guest every Sunday? Or are you surprised when one does come? I’ve been encouraged as I travel around our state of North Carolina to see that more and more churches are preparing for guests, but I’ve been in enough Baptist churches to know that we have a ways to go! What can we do to prepare for guests?
When you’re expecting guest at church, you do the same as you would if you were expecting guests in your home. Here are a few things I’ve observed churches doing to prepare for guests:
- Clean the house! Baptist churches are notoriously messy. Clean out the clutter in the corner and the old curriculum stacked on the piano. I know. I’ve seen it.
- Have a special place for them to park and when they drive up, be there to greet them.
- Have a welcome sign out for them, and walk them into your doors
- Plan to make them feel authentically welcomed as a person for whom you genuinely care.
- Wear name tags so that they don’t have to remember your names (kind of like place cards at the dinner table) and make one for them so that others can call them by their names – and be sure to do that!
- Help them find their
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way around: kids rooms, their room, the sanctuary, especially the necessary rooms.
- Introduce them to new friends in a small group.
- Make them a part of a Care Group for ministry and connections that follow up on their visit.
- Sit with them in the worship service.
- Invite them to the next party.
- Involve them in an upcoming ministry (guests feel more at home when you allow them to help).
- Become a real friend. Guests aren’t looking for a friendly place; they’re looking for friends..
Treat your church guests like you would your guests at home. They’ll come back, but more importantly, you just might make a new disciple.
Phil Stone is the State Sunday School Director of North Carolina.