It’s your first time at a new church. What’s the first thing that happens when you walk in?
Welcome. A nice handshake and a ‘Good Morning’ from the guy on the door. Fair enough,
an initial welcome is key to help people feel invited into a group they don’t know- after all
first impressions are incredibly important, but to be honest a handshake and good morning
simply doesn’t cut it, so beyond the door where would you go, or what would you even do?
You see after a handshake, new people are often left to fend for themselves in an
atmosphere where pretty much everyone knows everyone else except for the first-timer.
In looking at any church, we have three W’s – Word, Worship and Welcome. Often we
concentrate well on the ‘worship’ and ‘word’ which is obviously right and important but it
can result in welcome being neglected. This can potentially be a big downfall in a church
because ‘welcome’ is the first thing that anyone experiences. Nowadays even before
someone steps through the door, they can look on social media or the church’s website.
What generally appears to happen is that all the church members sit in their weekly huddles
and leave out the new guy who just stands there looking at the notice board or their phone.
It would be a miracle to see them the next week after that kind of welcome. The Church is
family, so we should look like one family, not a set of families.
By no means am I having a go at strong friendships between the church family because that
in itself is very important especially when someone is going through a tough time, but we
have to be more than willing to let people into our friendship groups and ultimately into the
So what can we do to make a welcome that has long-lasting impression on new-comers?
Well, firstly maybe we need to know that welcome isn’t just on a Sunday– it’s throughout
After all we should be making a big effort to be welcoming. I mean if we are following in
Jesus’ footsteps we should take that first step to talk to someone that we don’t know, just
like when Jesus talked to the woman at the well in John 4.
Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman even though he was a Jew. According to the times they
lived in, the two shouldn’t talk with one another, yet Jesus took a step and made an effort
to have a chat with her. As a result this gave the opportunity for many to come to faith. It
says in John 4:42 (they are speaking about Jesus) “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer
believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that
this man really is the Saviour of the world.’”
So if a rough bloke comes into church and looks like he has the power to break the chairs in
half, just trust God and take that first step towards him. God will give you the words to say.
So let’s have a look practically at what we might be able to do with/for anyone new, I don’t
have all the answers but these are just a few observations,
- Have specific church people at events for welcome, they need to be enthusiastic,
friendly and good at talking to people. Just have them waiting around to direct
anyone who looks lost or talk to others who look a bit lonely or bored. Just make
sure that they aren’t so enthusiastic that they do hugs with everyone because going
into someone’s personal space without an invite can instantly put some right off.
- Get their number or email so you can contact them in the week or in a few weeks to
- Have a pastoral team to text and visit people, generally catch up and make sure
people don’t just drop off from church.
- Having tea n’ coffee at the beginning works quite well too – hospitality and a home-
like feeling leaves a good impression in the mind.
- Invite people into your home, have a meal or a coffee. Give people your time.
- Pretty much be New Testament people, a family that looks out for others (like Acts
2:44-47). You want to get to the point where you’re doing life with them.
- Don’t assume they know any upcoming events so explain briefly what is coming up
even if you have done for the past three weeks.
- If you’re going to do something like communion or prayer ministry just explain
what’s happening. In all your communication don’t use Christian jargon.