Josh Pezold is the Connections & Outreach Pastor at BridgePointe Christian Church in East Providence, RI. Josh has served in the local church for the past 10 years and is on... read more
Creating a Welcoming Environment for Your Guests
Easter weekend is behind you and with that hopefully comes some relaxation and soon a lot of reflection. What went well? What went… well …. not so well?
This probably doesn’t need to be stated but the goal of Easter is always to worship Jesus and help others do the same. Getting people to Jesus is always priority #1, #2, and so forth.
Disciples of Jesus are made in relationships. Following Jesus is always more effective when you are doing it with other people. Especially for those who are following Jesus for the very first time or considering it.
Like it or not, Sunday services play a big part in helping people believe and follow Christ. I like to say that I don’t invite people to our church to get them to the service, but to get them to YOU.
Because if they know you, you can help them get to Jesus. You can help them wrestle through their questions, doubts, fears, and share about a God who has changed you.
Disciples make disciples. Not services. And here’s the reality….
Welcoming environments create relational opportunities.
If your environment isn’t relationally warm, safe, inviting, and compelling… You won’t have the opportunity to build relationships with those Christ has called you to minister to. Don’t get me wrong, some people will come regardless. But many will keep their distance.
So the question is how? Do you create a welcoming environment on Sundays? Today I want to hit on a few.
1. Equipping the Right People
Here is the truth… creating a welcoming environment is primarily about equipping the right people.
You can have amazing lobby decor, expensive coffee, trendy t-shirts, and enough fog machines to make your band look like they descended from heaven… and still have an unwelcoming environment. It might be cool but it can feel cold.
Guests and regular attenders come to your church for a number of different reasons. But they will stay because of the people. They will put up with a lot of mistakes and set aside their preferences, if they love and feel loved by others.
Relational DNA might begin naturally, but it never stays without intentionality.
People will eventually gravitate toward their friends, they will think someone else will connect with the new person, and they may get tired of serving.
The key is to equip your people from the beginning. Help them to see that what they do is about a person not a task.
- It’s not about opening a door, it’s about receiving a person.
- It’s not about giving a program, it’s about informing a person.
- It’s not about making coffee, it’s about blessing a person with yummy java from on high.
The win is PEOPLE.
- Equip new team members through an intentional on-boarding process. Let them know what it looks like to engage with people in the environment you are calling them to serve in. Frame their role description to talk about the person they are serving more than the task they are performing.
- Equipping is more caught than taught. Allow 2-3 weeks for a new team member to apprentice or shadow someone you trust. They need someone to model more than a process to follow.
- Equipping is ongoing. You’ll have to coach your team while they are serving. Tell them from the start that you don’t expect them to be perfect but be willing to be coached. Look for opportunities to catch your team doing exactly what you want them to repeat and celebrate that genuinely. If correction needs to happen, air on the side of following up after services not during.
2. Empower the right people
Empowering is all the rage. I hear it often as a leader’s role to empower those around them. Giving power and sometimes authority to others. But too often I see empowering being more about equipping someone to fulfill a task rather than calling them to fulfill a purpose. Here’s the truth…
Empowering people always demands capturing their hearts.
You can’t ask someone to pay the cost until you helped them to feel the burden.
Those you lead need to know what is at stake if the cafe team, parking team, lobby team, whatever team you have, didn’t exist. They need to believe that what they will be doing has eternal value and how they fit into the big picture of helping the church to make disciples of Jesus in relationships.
If they don’t feel the burden, you shouldn’t be surprised that they don’t show up on time. If they don’t feel the burden, you should be surprised that they don’t talk to the new family. If they don’t feel the burden, you need to take ownership. Be the leader they need and capture their hearts with the powerful reality that what they do will change eternity.
Take a few minutes and think about everything your team does on Sundays.
- Write down why you think what they do matters.
- Craft statements that they can remember that will help them to see why what they do makes an impact. (Example “It’s not about opening a door, it’s about receiving a person.” This paired with a story can make a world of difference to capturing their heart. A few questions to consider… What’s the eternal potential of someone getting a program/bulletin? Or a connect card? Or Coffee? Or having the door opening for them? Hint… how can God use this?
3. Teach Discernment More than Process
It’s always good for your team to know what to say and do with first time guests, second time guests, and regular attenders.
All first time guests are asked to go to the information center for example.
Or what to do with new families who have children? Process matters.
But in your attempt to create a welcoming environment you want to teach discernment more than process. You want real people not robots. People who have conversations, not read from scripts.
Practically this looks like teaching your people to discern… What’s best for the guest?
The process might say… “bring all first time guests to the information center.”
But discernment teaches the necessity to read body language, listen empathically, and make wise decisions based upon the information you have available.
If your people discern a first time guests is saying…
I don’t want to talk to you with their body language…
Then they probably shouldn’t push to hard on brining them to your information center.
Discernment takes time to develop but there is nothing more welcoming than a person who is thinking and working for your good.
- In teaching discernment, real examples are helpful for your people. Giving them things to say, but not demanding when they say them can be helpful.
- Some roles within your team will require more relational discernment than others. It will be your role as the leader to put the most naturally gifted in the most relational positions.
- Resources on emotional intelligence are extremely helpful in developing and training in this skill.
These three things aren’t comprehensive but they are a start. Pick one to focus on this month and do your best. That’s all the required of you. Praying God uses you to accomplish His purposes.