There is an ancient rule among the Benedictines:
“Let every guest who arrives be received like Christ. For He is going to say, ‘I came as a guest and you received me’.”
This would be a good concept for all churches to remember and instill.
Unlike most churches in our country, the church I have the privilege to pastor frequently and regularly has new visitors. But like most churches, we have much to learn before we could claim that the Rule of Benedict is an accurate description of our congregational practice.
I am confident some would feel it is true of us already. I have never been part of a church that better demonstrates a love for one another than Walnut Hill Church does. And that love is frequently extended to our guests. That’s why many of them are now part of the family.
But I also suspect that there are others, for whatever reasons, who have come and gone without necessarily having experienced the same thing. While it is obvious that we will never get to the point where we will keep everyone, I am concerned about those who do not stick because they did not feel loved, or perhaps even welcomed.
Studies indicate that the typical church needs to keep 16% of first-time guests in order to have a growth rate that roughly keeps pace with the annual national birth rate. Churches that are growing and healthy generally see a 25-30% rate of assimilation/integration of those who visit. (By the way, on average, 85% of guests who return the following week generally join with that church.)
- Invite your guests with a personal invitation.
- Arrive early and make sure everything is prepared for your guests’ arrival.
- Greet the guests warmly at the entrance and escort them to their seats.
- Assist guests with understanding what is taking place.
- Anticipate as many questions as possible in advance, so guests do not have to ask.
- Do something extra to make your guests’ visit special.
- Walk guests to the door and invite them back.
Let me suggest that these suggestions be adopted by individual church members. Don’t try to program this as much as cultivate it. There is no need to wait for the pastor, or some formal committee, to be hospitable.