Nodding toward the space next to me, she asked, “Are you saving that seat for your husband?”
The sarcastic part of me wanted to quip, “Yes, but it may be awhile!” But since I’m not married, I simply smiled and said, “No.”
Without another word, she and her family sat down.
What’s wrong with this picture? Everything. Unfortunately, I’ve had many other opportunities to feel unwelcome, or at the very least, invisible, when visiting churches. Consequently, I make it a point to look for people visiting my church.
Here’s what I’m learning:
- Pray for the visitors you hope to meet.
- Get to church early.
- Be on the lookout.
- Some guests may be easy to spot. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to the ones who are not.
- If you don't know guests from members, say, "I don't believe I've had the pleasure of meeting you."
- If guests are already seated, offer to sit with them. If not, invite them to sit with you.
- Consider inviting them to lunch. Leave it open ended: “If you don’t have plans for lunch, we’ll be at Sonny’s BBQ at 12:30.”
- If appropriate, get their contact information.
- Say, “I’ll look for you next week.”
- Think. Once when I was visiting a church I asked a greeter for directions to the restroom. She obliged with no further comment. Tipoff! If someone doesn’t know the way to the restroom, you’ve got a guest on your hands.
- Be inclusive. Know when to visit with your friends and when to look for new ones who might be disguised as visitors.
Obviously there’s a lot more at stake when guests walk through the doors of a church. What if the person in my opening story had been someone who woke up Sunday morning after a sin-filled Saturday night and thought, “I’ve got to get my life together. Maybe I’ll go to that church on the corner….I’m told God’s people gather there….”
So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! (Romans 15:7 The Message)