3 Ways the Church Family Gets Ready for Our Guests
You probably don't think about it, but showing up on time to your local church Sunday gathering has major impacts.
There are a multiplicity of reasons why someone may come late to a Sunday gathering. Some reasons are legitimate: maybe the kids are fussy. Maybe you ran out of gas. Maybe you forgot to set your alarm, or it didn't go off when expected. All of these things happen.
Many of us, however, develop a habit of consistent tardiness. This also can come from a variety of places. Maybe it's cultural (However wrong it is, I know that in Bellingham, 5 min late is still "on time", by most people's standards), and maybe we consistently think we can get away with hitting the snooze button one more time. But more likely, it's that we are late to that which we regard lightly.
Whatever it is, how we spend our time is a statement of what we value.
Quick Story: My wife and I were blessed and privileged to lead a team to travel to India and visit all the different church plants and orphanages our church had been supporting for the last few years. Upon our arrival to India our brothers and sisters in Christ would not cease to show us honor as their guests.
Here are a few things I noticed specifically from the Indian culture that I think would benefit our churches and change the overall culture. Upon every household we entered we were placed at the head of the table, we were greeted with flowers, and they would always have a meal prepared for us. I was blown away with the desire from the Indian culture to give themselves fully to make their guests feel welcome and loved. Why as a church family do we have such a hard time honoring our guests? Or showing them we care?
As Christians, we should strive to show hospitality to those who visit our churches. Here are just ways a church family can get ready for guests every week.
1. Show up 20 minutes early to meet new people
Most of us are taught to be early for appointments or other kinds of gatherings. Unfortunately, there are many of us in this world who have never been able to come to anything on time. I know that at our church, I am astounded on Sundays when I see many new first time guests come 15 minutes early and I have to explain to them that most people arrive 5-10 minutes late.
This is not a good thing. If we call our local church "home", we as hosts need to care for guests and be there to welcome them to our local church.
How does this look practically?
- Saturday night: Plan out your Sunday (Lay out what you will wear, shower the night before, plan your children's food and clothing)
- Go to sleep early: I know people love staying up late, (who doesn't; it's a weekend!). But we need to realize that our local churches are filled with guests who have shown up early to meet new people, and that we are just being rude hosts by not being there to welcome them.
- Don't assume that someone else from the family will be there early. It has to start with you!
The Challenge: If you are chronically late every Sunday, start small! Make an effort within your family or if you are single to show up 20 minutes early to greet new people, once a month. This will impact a church culture greatly if even just a few people embrace caring for our new guests on Sunday's.
2. Welcome guests with a smile
Everything speaks to guests-everything. From the moment guests set foot on your property, they tune in to receive the message your church is sending. And your church is always sending a message, whether you realize it or not. (The condition of your building, your sign, your grass and your parking lot all speak to guests. Gut-level judgment calls are already being made. This does not necessarily mean the people are being overly critical (although this may be the case, depending on their history with the Church) but just being human. They are taking a reading of their environment. - Beyond the Visit by Gary McIntosh
As a family of believers, we have a responsibility to greet our guests cheerfully. Practically, this means smiling, and telling them your name and asking for theirs. The conversation can go like this:
- Good morning, my name is ___________
- Is this your first time here at ___________ Church
- Has anyone shown you around?
- If you don't mind, I would be more than willing to show you around the church. (We'll talk more about this below.)
Again, The act of serving doesn't always mean you have to be doing a physical activity, serving also means showing up and saying hello to a new face.
The Challenge: When you gather with your local church family to worship on Sunday, find someone you don't know and introduce yourself to them. Ask them if they have ever been to your local church before and if they haven't show them around.
3. Give a Tour
The best way to serve a guest is to show them around your home.
Here is a situation that might help you see the picture I am trying to paint: Say you have invited someone over to your house for dinner for the first time, and your guests arrive at the door. As a host, you are not going to lay on the couch and let your guests find food and drinks for themselves. Well as a family in our local church, we can not expect our guests to know where everything is. And even if they do, as hosts it is our responsibility to greet them, get to know them and show them around.
It is no different with guests who show up to the family gathering on Sundays. A guest has no idea where coffee is served (no one is there to offer them some), a guest has no idea where the bathrooms are, or a new family doesn't know where to take children. This is such an easy way to serve someone.
The Challenge: Introducing yourself to a guest does not have to be hard. On Sunday purposefully show up early, and be willing to show people around the church. By doing this, you will help people feel more at home.
You have been welcomed into God's family
Ultimately, as we pursue others Sunday morning, we need to remember that while we were sinners, Christ invited us into His family with open arms - literally. He was nailed to a Roman cross for sin He did not commit. He then rose from death, showing that He had conquered our sin and death.
He has secured for us new life and a place in His family, and sent His Holy Spirit as a seal of our adoption (Eph 1:13), who also enables us to be welcoming and loving to others as Christ welcomes and loves us.
By His grace, we can be welcoming and gracious to visitors as we seek to steward our time in a way that is glorifying to Him.