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Welcome to Church

I’m increasingly interested in how we welcome folks to our congregations. In a world where “church” is no longer a given, where the Christian faith gets less and less of a hearing, and where fewer people grew up in a faith tradition, we need to think hard about what we’re saying, both formally and informally.

Do we put up signs anticipating visitors or assume everyone knows their way around? Do we make provision for folks who have trouble hearing and for parents of kids who might be noisy? Do we welcome folks at the outset of worship? These and more questions are the kinds of things we need to think about not only because they may help us welcome visitors better but also because they will change the way we think about why we are at worship in the first place. Are we, in short, there for us, or for others? In what way are we there for both? These are questions that get at the root of our identity and mission simultaneously, and if we go at them with creativity and intentionality, we might be surprised by the results.

By way of example, consider this great welcome. It comes from the bulletin of Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Community. Jon Acuff pointed it out on his very fun – and often very informative – website called “Stuff Christians Like.” He thought it was great. So do I:

We extend a special welcome to those who are single, married, divorced, gay, filthy rich, dirt poor, yo no habla Ingles. We extend a special welcome to those who are crying new-borns, skinny as a rail or could afford to lose a few pounds.

We welcome you if you can sing like Andrea Bocelli or like our pastor who can’t carry a note in a bucket. You’re welcome here if you’re “just browsing,” just woke up or just got out of jail. We don’t care if you’re more Catholic than the Pope, or haven’t been in church since little Joey’s Baptism.

We extend a special welcome to those who are over 60 but not grown up yet, and to teenagers who are growing up too fast. We welcome soccer moms, NASCAR dads, starving artists, tree-huggers, latte-sippers, vegetarians, junk-food eaters. We welcome those who are in recovery or still addicted. We welcome you if you’re having problems or you’re down in the dumps or if you don’t like “organized religion,” we’ve been there too.

If you blew all your offering money at the dog track, you’re welcome here. We offer a special welcome to those who think the earth is flat, work too hard, don’t work, can’t spell, or because grandma is in town and wanted to go to church.

We welcome those who are inked, pierced or both. We offer a special welcome to those who could use a prayer right now, had religion shoved down your throat as a kid or got lost in traffic and wound up here by mistake. We welcome tourists, seekers and doubters, bleeding hearts … and you!



To read Jon’s whole post, click here. And, if you have a moment, let me know the most creative ways your congregation has sought to welcome folks.