Monday, May 20, 2013

Keeping Your Church Growing

I read a blog post a couple of weeks ago. The post was titled something like, "We're Going to Stop Being a Welcoming Church." Sounds terrible, doesn't it? But as the post went on to explain, it was actually a good idea. His point was that his church was welcoming. They had coffee, they had greeters, they had people to help direct visitors to the right place. But in his view it wasn't enough. They needed to be an inviting church. That is, a church that the members invite people to. This pastor had stumbled on something that growing churches have been doing for a couple of millennia. People inviting their friends to church.

Now maybe you don't have any friends to invite to church. Maybe all your friends are  already in your church, or in some other church. Then you need to cultivate some new friends. Maybe they won't be friends that you can invite to church right away. But give it time. Pray for them. Be a real friend to them. Then one day, maybe you can invite them to church. Sounds simple. But many of us don't do it. And that's a shame, because there are plenty of people out there who need friends, and who need the church. They just don't know it yet. So get started.

While I'm on the subject, is your church a church that you'd want to invite people to? Is your church a welcoming church? I don't mean coffee and donuts. I mean a church where a new visitor feels accepted. Do people at your church interact with visitors? I don't mean a simple, "Hello" before moving on to someone else. I mean taking an active interest in the visitor. Not in an overwhelming, smothering fashion, but in a way that says to the visitor that you are interested in them as a person, not just a number that can be added to the "we had X number of visitors this month." Are the people in your church going to forego talking with their friends in order to converse with a stranger? If they're not, you don't have a welcoming church. Visitors won't come back. If they won't come back, there's less chance of them meeting Christ in your church.

Granted, some visitors don't want to be noticed. They'll come in late and leave early. They're probably not sure they really want to be there. Not much you can do about that. But that's not most visitors.They hope, even if they're not fully conscious of it, that someone will take notice of them. You be the one to do it.

This doesn't happen by accident. It happens by intent. If other people in your church are ignoring visitors, make sure you don't. Even if the visitor is someone you know will never join your church, such as a family visiting while on vacation, make sure you speak with them. Let them know that this is a church that welcomes visitors, that invites people, that wants strangers who will become friends.

If your church doesn't welcome visitors in this way, by drawing them in, letting them know they've been noticed, and that the church is interested in them, your church is already beginning to die. It may look good. It may have a lot of people. But it's already dying, because it's closing out those who need to be drawn in.

Think about it.

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