Monday, February 16, 2015

 

A Church Strategy You Can Take Part in: Friendliness

When it comes to picking a church to call home, one friendly person can make a difference.

That is a statement of fact. Not a guess, not even a question. How do I know? According to a Barna Research national survey of people looking for a church, the “friendliness to visitors” is “extremely important” for 71%. If you factor in the 21% that say it is “important,” then friendliness in the congregation is the most important factor!

There is another way I know the reported impact of friendliness is not over-stated. Because a friendly person helped my wife and I when we were church visitors 15-plus years ago.

We were close to giving up. We were visiting big churches and simply not connecting. One smiling face made the difference for us. That one man showed us to a small group, remembered our names, helped us connect, called us in the middle of the week and then greeted us again the next week.

My wife and I were blessed by his kindness and effort. He always said he was the one that received the blessing, to know that his kindness kept us in a church and helped us connect.  Research nationwide proves friendliness is an essential factor that every church desires to have – but many do not.

A quick search of Google for the exact phrase “friendly church” turned up 546,000 results just a few weeks ago. That is a big number, but in my own experience, most churches are pretty friendly with themselves. They meet and greet their members and their invited friends but other folks are on their own.

Every church needs to develop a strategy to be friendly, without being smothering.

To succeed at “friendliness,” every church needs the involvement of its members. What can you do to aid the church in its hospitality ministry? What can you do to help create a culture of friendliness at a church? Try these three ideas on for size.

The 10 most important minutes in church friendliness happens after the service. Yes, you read that correctly. Do you simply leave the church when service is over or can you seek out the visitors you shook hands with and get to know them better? Invite those visitors to your small group, or even lunch.

First time visitors often show up right on time or early. They use the front entrance and generally sit in their seat looking at their bulletin, waiting for the service to begin. In churches with large buildings, the visitors may look bewildered and lost in the halls. When you spot those signs, the least you can do is offer your assistance or offer a greeting.

When you spot a visitor, either before or after the service, try this for an introduction: “Hello, my name is David. I don’t think I’ve met you yet.” Usually, they will volunteer that they are visiting. Learn to avoid asking, “Is this your first time here?” It may not be or they may have been members at the church longer than you!

Hospitality (which is what our friendliness effort really needs to be) is not evangelism. Hospitality is a way to help the local church body demonstrate a caring Christian community. Hospitality helps prepare the way for hearing the joyful proclamation of the good news in a service. Hospitality covers more than just group gatherings in worship. It extends to Sunday school classes, passing in the hallway and even Wednesday night meetings.

Would you like to have the lasting impact on a family that one man had on our family 15-plus years ago? Truth is, you have that type of potential right now. Hospitality and friendliness needs to be part of our focus every time we step our foot in the church.


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