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                When I was in college, I was taking a multi-culturalism class (this is just a fancy way of saying that we were learning about other cultures.) One of the assignments in the class was that each student was to go someplace where we would be a minority, and then report about the situation. I decided to go to an African-American church. I was very much the minority in the sanctuary. Everything was going great until the “welcome of guests” time. Everyone knew I was a guest. I stuck out pretty obviously. I figured I might have to raise my hand or something like that. It did not go down that way. The pastor asked all the guests to please stand and introduce themselves. I was the only guest. I was the only person standing. I happened to also be the only person that did not look like everybody else.

                I stood as nobly as I could, and tried my best to not let my voice squeak as I introduced myself. Every eye was on me. I am sure many of the people in the church were wondering why I had entered their church. There were a few suspicious eyes cast my way. After what seemed like a thousand minutes, I was finally able to sit down. Then the church stood up, and many of the church members came by to greet me. They were super nice and very welcoming. I enjoyed myself at that church so much, that the next week I brought two of my friends with me. Part of it was I could not wait to see them have to stand up in the church like I did. I “forgot” to tell them about that part of the service. The pastor congratulated me on bringing guests. I got an A on the assignment.

                Being a first-time guest at a church is a little scary, especially if you do not know people there. A church can be loaded with landmines. A guest will wonder a thousand different things like: is there a place for children, where are the bathrooms, am I sitting in someone else’s seat, do I have to give for the offering, will anyone talk to me, what is the quickest way out of the church if they start handling snakes? All of these thoughts (except for snakes-unless you are visiting a mountain church) can lead to a visitor not being able to enjoy their time at a church.

                I know that we do not have a ton of visitors, so you may not think it is important to think about these things right now. I disagree. There is an old business saying that goes, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” The idea is to always be proactive and thinking two or three steps ahead. If we wait to try to figure out how to make guests comfortable after God has started sending a lot of guests (and I believe that He will), we will have already let to many guests leave with the wrong impression.

                Thom Rainer, a man I have mentioned before, has spent most of his adult life studying churches with the goal of making them better. He regularly writes articles to churches about how to make guests feel more welcome. He has many suggestions, but I want to share a few with you. I think that these can and should be done by everyone. We should not think that it is somebody else’s job to make guests feel welcome. We should go out of our way to do this (without being creepy.) Here are a few things we should get in a habit to say to our guests:

“Thank you for being here.”

“Can I help you with anything?”

“Here is my email address. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.”

“Let me introduce you to ___________________________”

“Do you have plans for lunch after the service? If not, we would love for you to come with my family.”

                I recognize that for many of you, this will take you out of your comfort zones. That is not a bad. A huge problem in any church is when we get too comfortable. We should be pushed to be different. Our goal should be to make guests feel much more comfortable than we feel. We never know what our acts of Christ-likeness will do for others. It may be the kindness that saves their lives, or introduces you to your new best friend. It may also have no immediate effect. Either way we will never go wrong with showing kindness and hospitality to our guests. I am pretty sure this is Biblical (It is! - 1 Peter 4:9.)

                As always, I love you, and let us strive to be even more like Jesus in everything that we do.

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