Some churches would identify themselves as a friendly church while visitors say otherwise. The discrepancy comes, in large part, from the criteria being used.
Criteria Some Use to Claim Their Church is Inviting and Friendly
Some think that because they have helpful parking lot attendants and greeters at the door, people’s first impressions must be that this is a friendly church. Maybe they have a welcome center and/or kiosk stations to take away some discomfort of people not knowing what to do or where to go. To make people feel even more welcome, they’ll have a designated time to greet one another in the service. To provide time to get to know people better, they may even add a coffee hour or shop and/or a hospitality room or fellowship hall to meet and greet.
These Factors Alone Don’t Give Off the Impression of a Friendly Church
We may see nothing wrong with the above strategies in and of themselves. These acts of hospitality can be quite helpful. But, programmed acts of kindness should never be a substitute for real body life that leads to spontaneous acts of friendship that come from the heart.
God designed the Church to function with everybody doing their part (Eph. 4:16) to make everyone feel welcomed, loved, and accepted as seen in so many of the “one another” commands of Scripture (Rom. 12:5, 10; 13:8; 15:7; 16:16; 1 Cor. 12:25; Eph. 4:32; 1 Pet. 4:9). When we are who we should be as a church, His Body, we will relate with people in ways that make them feel like they belong.
A Better Criteria to Determine Friendliness
So, let’s look through our tactics again and see what also needs to be there for a truly friendly church.
Helpful Parking Lot Attendants?
What about members who give you the right of way or let you back out of your parking spot without an attendant having to tell them to?
Greeters at the Door?
What about an awareness of people’s presence throughout their visit, not just when they arrive … like people making eye contact and saying “hello” as they walk the halls rather than look right through you?
What about members who are not on the hospitality committee coming up to a visitor and helping them find their way?
What about going to people and personally inviting them to get involved rather than expecting them to always take the first step?
Designated Time to Greet One Another in the Service?
What about members greeting people outside of their normal circle of friends before and after the service without having to be told to greet one another?
A Coffee Hour or Coffee Shop?
What about a body who is able to stay and mingle without the coffee incentive?
Hospitality Rooms & Fellowship Halls to Meet and Greet?
What about churches who make it hard for people not making their way to these rooms to slip out the door unnoticed … without at least a few people greeting them before they leave?
Seriously, who wouldn’t rate churches with spontaneous acts of kindness, helpfulness, and hospitality by its various members as the most friendly churches? Programmed strategies should only be seen as a starting point. Spontaneous acts of friendship make the real difference.
Are you doing your part to make people feel truly welcomed?