One of the things that we work hard at New City is forging a family; it’s not easy. Like a biological family, it takes dedicated time and loving intentionality. One of the ways we work hard at welcoming people into the family at New City starts with a very simple step on Sunday mornings when we see most of our visitors.
The Connect Team serves as the tip of the spear in welcoming and connecting visitors to New City Church. Every Sunday they set up for the service, provide coffee and serve as the welcome team in order to help visitors know they are welcome and to get connected. But we go a step further in encouraging the church as a whole to welcome visitors into New City like you would welcome someone into your own home.
This Sunday we have the unique opportunity to invite Mercer students back to Macon and back to New City Church. We are excited to have our college students back and we want to make sure they know they have been missed and are welcome at New City Church! Here are three things we are asking you to do this Sunday…and even beyond.
- Prepare Saturday – We have been attending church with kids for 17 years. Early on, I was not a pre-planner, so it made attending church with kids a challenge. Something I have learned and now practice every week is to prepare on Saturday. Simple, practical things like laying out clothes, thinking through breakfast, and setting an alarm have made all the difference. A blog post from TGC even suggests that you play hard on Friday night, but be boring and go to bed early on Saturday night. Now that we attend church for both services, arriving an hour before service starts and being one of the last families to leave the building, I can’t imagine not pre-planning for all six of our kids. We are not special or superhuman; we just practice pre-planning.
- Arrive 30 minutes before service starts – Typically, visitors arrive 15 minutes before service starts because it’s a new place and they want to get comfortable with unfamiliar surroundings. If your family arrives at the exact moment that the service starts or 15 minutes after the service starts, you will not have an opportunity to meet a visitor. Arrive 30 minutes early so that you have an opportunity to welcome new visitors into New City.
- Wait 30 minutes after the service – If a visitor has not made a connection with anyone, they will leave directly after the service is over. Think about it. It’s like going to watch a movie alone, when it’s over, you leave. But if you watch a movie with a group of friends, usually you hang out a bit and talk about it. Waiting 30 minutes after the service gives you an opportunity to meet someone new, invite them to lunch or answer any questions they may have about New City. The Connect Table is also a great place to direct them in order to learn more about our Missional Communities.
Brandon Cox, Lead Pastor at Grace Hills Church, shared the following six important principles to consider when intentionally greeting new visitors and I think there are a few things we can learn from him.
- You are the first loving touch every guest will meet, which sets the stage for people to be open to life change. People will be more or less receptive to the teaching depending on how they were made to feel on the way in.
- Most guests will decide in the first few minutes if they will return, even before the music starts. It’s easy to walk into church if you’re there every week, but do you remember what it was like walking in for the first time, when you didn’t think you’d know anyone and wondered if anyone would want to know you?
- Your biggest goals are to 1.) eliminate awkwardness and 2.) encourage people. We worship together in a movie theater, so we have the advantage of knowing that people already know what it’s like to walk into a theater, but they’re still asking themselves questions like: Am I following their rules? Am I dressed appropriately? Will I be able to find the bathroom without asking?
- You are a tour guide who takes people to their destination, not a travel agent who sends them there. Walking parents and kids all the way to the next volunteer in the kids’ worship room is far better than pointing a finger and saying, “it’s down there on the right.” Walk with people and ask them questions on the way. Be genuinely interested in their lives.
- You can have a ministry of encouragement and even offer to have a brief prayer with people. Obviously, some first time guests may not be comfortable with such forwardness, but sometimes it may be highly appropriate to pray with guests before they enter the auditorium, especially if you’ve sensed a spiritual need in them. Keep it brief and don’t make things awkward, but communicate that you care.
- Everybody ought to receive a smile, a word of welcome, a loving touch (such as a handshake), and a bulletin on their way in. A smile disarms people and boosts their confidence. A word of welcome is common courtesy. A loving touch, such as a handshake or a brief hug, might be the only loving touch that guest receives this week. And a bulletin, at least in our case, is like a map for what’s going on and allows the guest to respond to the message and request more information.