Widen the Welcome
One of the great joys I have here at Niles Discovery Church is getting to sit down with visitors and finding out more about their spiritual journeys and what they’re seeking in a church community. Whenever someone new visits worship for the first time, I strive to get their contact information, and I call them that very week to ask them out for coffee and conversation. Most folks respond positively, and so we spend an hour or more talking about the church service, their church-going history, and the things that bring them joy. I love sitting with people and listening to their stories, and I love building relationships with them when they return to us again.
Something I often hear about from newcomers is the hospitality they felt on their first visit. Almost every single person I’ve met with has told me—unsolicited—that they felt warmly and genuinely welcomed, with an authenticity that can’t be faked. When I look around the fellowship hall, I watch out for the newest folks, and I rarely see them standing alone. My heart is full, knowing that we truly walk our talk that “all of us are welcome here,” as we sing every Sunday.
I wonder, though, if we should be satisfied with our current level of hospitality. I wonder if it’s possible to deepen and widen our welcome. Hospitality is not the sole responsibility of the greeters and ushers, the pastors, and a few extroverted individuals—hospitality is the responsibility of the whole congregation. In fact, we shouldn’t really see it as a job or responsibility at all, but rather as a part of our collective DNA or how the fabric of our congregation is woven together.
One of the best parts of being a faith community is our fellowship time after worship on Sunday morning—it’s good to spend time with our friends and it’s easy to connect with others about projects and ministries in the church. The problem is, if most of us are only ever connecting with those we know well or need to see about a project, then the newest members of our community have a hard time getting to know everyone.
So here are some things I’d like to challenge us to do in the weeks to come to make hospitality part of the fabric of our community: first of all, wear your nametag. Put it on when you come in to worship, and leave it on during coffee hour. We ask visitors to wear nametags, and it’s pretty unfair if no one else is wearing them! Secondly, during fellowship time, introduce yourself to someone you haven’t met yet, or challenge yourself to have a conversation with someone you don’t know well. Or, if you’re one of those folks who knows everyone, make a point of connecting two people who haven’t me yet. Eight new members joined the church last month. Have you met all of them?
Finally, think of someone outside our community that you’d like to invite to church, and invite them to worship with us or attend an event at NDC. It’s only through inviting new people in that we can truly widen our welcome and grow our community.