Originally written for Shepherd of the Ridge Lutheran Church, apply these ideas to your local context.
OK, everyone, as a member of Shepherd of the Ridge, has certain responsibilities: Worship, Bible study, taking care of your family, and that whole 10 Commandments thing. But did you know that, as an (all too often secret) agent in God’s army, you have secret responsibilities?
In his blog, church leadership guru Nelson Searcy suggests that every church member, when attending worship, have a set of responsibilities to accommodate guests. Borrowing from his list, here’s my custom list for Shepherd of the Ridge members:
- Fill out the pew pad and offer it to anyone else in your seat: This helps us make sure nobody “slips through the cracks” if they haven’t been here for a while. It also encourages guests to fill it out, since they’re not being singled out. (Being a smaller church, they already feel exposed.)
- Sit toward the middle of the pew instead of at the aisle. (If you have trouble walking due to a medical condition, I’ll excuse you from this one, not doctor’s excuse required.) This allows guests to easily find a place to sit.
- When you see someone you don’t know, introduce yourself. If you think they may be members, but either you or they haven’t been to church in a while (or you just haven’t had a chance to talk to them before), “Hi, I’m <name>, but I’m not sure we’ve met,” works. In a smaller church where “everyone knows everyone (not true, but that’s the perception),” guests want to know that they won’t be excluded.
- This may sound obvious, but when you talk to guests, invite them back. There’s a reason the kid at McDonald’s says, “Thanks. Come again.” He doesn’t care, but he’s been instructed to say that. It plants the idea. We actually do care, and we want people to know that they are welcome here unconditionally.
- If you request a prayer before the service, be loud enough that everyone, not just the pastor, can hear you. People care and want to know whom they’re praying for.
Is God going to strike you down if you sit by the aisle? Nope. He loves you. But He also wants you to love your neighbor as yourself, and that means making personal sacrifices for others.
We sometimes talk about assimilating guests and new members, that is making them more like us. That’s not our job and is, honestly, selfish. We should accommodate guests and new members, making (pretty small, really) sacrifices to make them feel comfortable and welcome.
So next time you come (and we want you to come back, too!), keep these suggestions in mind. If you have other suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.