My younger son recently joined a Boy Scout troop. Since it’s been 30 years since my last scouting event, we really didn’t know what to expect as we got started. We had a time and place for the first Cub Scout Pack meeting, so we showed up not really knowing what to expect. As we walked into an unfamiliar church building and found a seat among a handful of strangers, I couldn’t help but think that this is how so many people feel when they attend a church service somewhere new.
Out of place…
Needing a friend who can translate all the unfamiliar stuff happening…
When do I stand or sit? Why is that group standing in the back like they’re waiting for something? When will this actually start? Did I miss a signal somewhere? Am I supposed to salute or something?
A thousand questions assail the mind of the uninitiated. Hopefully, the guests at your church will have a better experience than our awkward first moments with the Pack. (It really was horrible.) Actually, you can do some simple things to make sure they do:
- Say hello. No one should manage to find their way onto your parking lot, through your front doors, and into the auditorium to hunt for a seat without a few people saying hi and helping them get where they need to be. When someone unfamiliar sits down nearby, smile and say hi. Don’t just relegate that to the greeters and ushers.
- Smile. Seriously, it’s that simple. You’re hanging out with people who love you, to celebrate the Life that will never be defeated. Jesus knocked the teeth out of death so that you could live with Him and His Dad forever. Even if your life isn’t going great right now, that’s something to be happy about.
- Know why you’re doing what you’re doing with absolute clarity. This is especially important for those who will be on the stage for any reason. Why are you asking people to do what you’re asking them to do? They don’t know, so please explain. If there’s a silent span of time, explain why so that it can be a meaningful moment full of the opportunity to connect with God instead of just an awkward moment of wondering who missed their cue and what’s supposed to be happening. If you’re singing some 90 year old song that “everybody knows,” explain it, because everyone does not know it or why they should join in.
- Love each other, but don’t ignore the ‘others’. Jesus told the disciples to love each other – and added that it would be an identifying mark of His followers (loving each other). But it’s easy to get so caught up with the people we love that we ignore people we don’t know. Look around the room and notice the new faces. Who’s loving them as they sit there alone feeling like they showed up to a family reunion wearing the wrong last name? Would you help them feel welcome to hang out with the family.
- Invite them to take another step. Discipleship is a journey that requires friends to walk along with. Help your new guests know what could be next for them. What events are coming up that would help them connect? What new groups might be getting started that they could jump into? Give them a reason to come back.
What a great opportunity we have to share hope with people looking for hope… Let’s make the most of it.