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Is Your Church Visitor Friendly?
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Is Your Church Visitor Friendly?
A church employee experiences what it’s like to be a visitor


 
Why it took a move far from home for a church employee to realize how easily it would be to stop going to church and what we should be doing to welcome guests and new members.
 
How is this affecting our church membership? What about our young people and grown children? How are we welcoming, befriending and authentically connecting with new members and converts? What if someone who smells like cigarette smoke visits our church? Do we befriend them?
 
Family and Church Roots
I was born near the end of the Baby Boomers. I’m a fourth generation Adventist with deep family and church roots. My father and many family members worked for the church. I am also a product of Adventist education and after graduating from one of our boarding academies, I went to went to one of our premiere Adventist colleges and met my husband.
 
I consider myself a spiritual person and before I moved away from my home conference, I attended church on a regular basis and couldn’t wait to spend time with my church family.
 
I spent most of my life in my home state. I could visit any church in the conference and easily find someone I knew.  My husband, a conference vice president (VP), and I worked at the church’s regional headquarters and always felt a warm welcome while visiting any of the churches or schools. We thought this must be the way it feels for everyone who visits.
 
The Move From Home
It’s been approximately seven years since we moved away from my home conference and into an Adventist ghetto near one of our colleges. For the first time in my life, I don’t have connections or community at church.
 
Since our children have graduated from college, we don’t have the opportunity to connect with their friend’s parents. Many people become friends with the parents of their children’s friends. Even so, it took my Adventist neighbors seven years to finally feel like they had friends at one of the area churches. This particular family has five younger children and is also far from their home.
 
Most weeks I just warm a pew. On rare occasions I see a familiar face. My husband, a conference administrator and VP, now has a few people who recognize him from committees, but for several years after we first moved, we could literally walk in and out of churches without anyone speaking to us.
 
When we attended our first camp meeting, we didn’t know a single soul and no one spoke to us. Everyone around us seemed like they were having a wonderful time visiting with friends, but not us. I now understand why people travel hundreds of miles to go to camp meeting in their home state.
 
We are members of a large congregation and people have suggested that I join a small group – in essence this is how I’m supposed to make friends. But I don’t feel any community or valued by anyone in the church and already have a negative first impression. Why would I want to join a small group?
 
It’s bad enough that I feel guilty for dreading going to church; I would rather spend Sabbath watching a livestream service from a familiar church, reading a book, visiting with visiting friends or hiking in nature. The reason I attend church is because the Bible says to be with other believers.
 
I now understand why many people give up on church; if my husband wasn’t a church administrator, I might too.
 
My Millennial Daughter’s Search
After our oldest daughter graduated from the local Adventist college, she moved far away and visited many Adventist churches, hoping to find a new church home like she had growing up. It didn’t take long to realize she was facing the same thing we experienced and after visiting all the nearby churches, she gave up. She assured me she was still Adventist at heart, but wanted to find a church where she was welcomed, needed and felt a connection with the people.
 
It wasn’t about the style of worship or music; she wanted to find fellow believers who were genuinely interested in getting to know her.
 
Our Visit and Quest to Help
Last year we visited our daughter and purposely stayed over for one Sabbath to help her find a church home. By then, it had been approximately two and a half years since her move.
 
My husband and I were planning to beg and plead, if necessary, to find someone who would reach out to our daughter and her boyfriend. Instead, however, it seemed like the four of us were invisible.
 
The church appeared friendly with each other, but not towards us. No one approached us to find out who we were or if we were visiting. Someone gave us a bulletin, but no one talked to us while we stood in the foyer. It was much like what we’ve experienced. We finally sat near the back of the sanctuary and realized we were going to have to take the initiative if we hoped to find a home church for our daughter.
 
After the service was over, we introduced ourselves to the head pastor and told him our daughter had been living in the area for more than two years and still hadn’t found a church home. He didn’t seem that concerned and after thanking us for visiting the church, he left to talk with someone else.
 
We saw the new youth associate, fresh from the Seminary, and headed in his direction. We told him our plight. He seemed sympathetic to our dilemma and said he and his wife had only been in the area for a month. I was hopeful he might be our answer to prayer. But I wasn’t convinced he realized how desperate my husband and I were in connecting our daughter to someone in the church.
 
After my husband, daughter and her boyfriend moved on to introduce themselves to other members, I stayed in hopes that I might impress upon this young pastor the importance of someone willing to reach out to our daughter. At first he suggested I have her connect with him on Facebook. I told him that it was doubtful she would seek him out and suggested that he reach out to her and her boyfriend.
 
So this young man traded phone numbers with my daughter’s boyfriend.  To my knowledge, this young pastor hasn’t contacted my daughter or her boyfriend, but at least he seemed more willing than the head pastor to find a way to connect with them.
 
We left this particular church feeling like we had failed. We were disappointed. Our plans to connect our daughter with someone in the church were unsuccessful.
 
I was thankful I had connected with one of my academy classmates on Friday evening. She and my daughter compared notes about the area churches, and although my daughter isn’t regularly attending church, she decided that she would attend the same church as my classmate.
 
My classmate also had a difficult time connecting with church members since she isn’t originally from the area. But why should parents have to help find a home church for their children who move away? Shouldn’t we, the church members, readily welcome everyone into our church family?
 
Another Young Person’s Search
Recently we ran into friends from our old home church. Their children grew up our girls. The oldest graduated from college several years ago and I asked where she was now living.
 
This young woman, in her mid-twenties, said it had been two and a half years since she graduated with a nursing degree and told me where she was working and living.
 
Her next words sounded all too familiar: “My boyfriend and I have spent the last two and a half years visiting church after church. We haven’t found a church that feels welcoming. You can walk in and out of our churches without anyone speaking to you. We have finally decided to stop looking for a welcoming church and have chosen one and will somehow find a way to make it work.”
 
Most young people would have given up. I’m convinced our churches must make it a priority to connect with and befriend every person who walks in our doors.
 
Found Another Young Person at GC Session
While at GC Session in San Antonio, I ran into one of my daughter’s classmates who also moved far from his home and family after graduation. This young man, in his mid-twenties, comes from a solid Adventist home with a father who teaches at one of our Adventist colleges.
 
Sadly his experiences are similar to mine. He hasn’t given up on finding a church, but said it doesn’t seem like anyone cares about getting to know him.
 
He said many of his college classmates, who are living nearby, seemed to have given up on finding a home church. He rattled off their names and I recognized all of them as my daughter’s classmates.
 
I shared some of my ideas on what our churches could do to help welcome new members. He also talked about how surprised he was when he realized our churches weren’t visitor friendly. Even though a generation separates us, we both experienced the same thing and believe the church’s leadership needs to make this a top priority.
 
Many Pastors and Leaders are Oblivious
I believe most pastors are unaware this phenomenon exists. After all, the congregation embraces the pastor. But is it a priority to welcome and befriend visitors who might be searching for a home church?
 
Like many Adventists, most of my friends are people in my church. And if you went through the Adventist education system as I have, the inability to find friendship and community in a new church contributes to the growing epidemic of loneliness and causes many to feel dissatisfaction in relocation and in their jobs. It is also likely a contributing factor to why so many of our young people aren’t in our churches.
 
I’ve met lifelong Adventists in their 50s and 60s who told me they had an urge to move back home. One of my childhood friends moved to where I’m living about a year before we did. She and her husband gave up on finding friendship and community in the church and moved back home.
 
Another couple in their 60s tried an experiment to make new friends. They resolved to sit in the same area of a large church for an entire year and went out of their way to befriend members by visiting with them between services and inviting members to their home for Sabbath dinner. My “outsider” friend, as we call ourselves, is a very friendly and personable individual, but said he and his wife were disappointed they weren’t able to find anyone interested in reciprocating.
 
I recently learned one of my family members is experiencing a similar reception in another geographic location. It’s especially difficult for her because her father is a minister. And like me, she’s had well-meaning Adventists get upset and offended when she shares her experiences and frustrations. I was surprised to learn my brother, a church employee, and his family experienced the same phenomena after moving away from home.
 
Even my old home church isn’t immune. I recently spoke with a long-time friend and retired church employee who shared this story. My friend recently saw someone at church she didn’t recognize. She introduced herself and learned the woman had been studying her Bible and was convicted of the seventh-day Sabbath.
 
After learning the Adventist Church had worship services on Saturday, she made her way to my old home church. This individual told my friend it was her second week at the church, but she wasn’t certain she was coming back, because until my friend talked with her, no one had spoken to her.
 
Instead of being offended, our conference and church leaders ought to welcome advice on ways to improve and meet our guest’s needs. And we should be doing everything possible to help visitors feel at home and assimilating them into our congregations.
 
How We Unknowingly Connected a Young Couple in Our Church
Just before we moved from my home conference, one of my good friends told me if we hadn’t invited her and her husband to our home, they wouldn’t be in an Adventist Church today. I didn’t realize the importance of our actions or her statement until we moved away.
 
The Story of How We Met
Years before, my husband and I noticed a young couple slip into the sanctuary just before the pastor was about to speak. We wondered who they were, but could never find them after church.
 
Finally my husband spotted the elusive couple and asked if he could invite them to our home for Sabbath dinner. The pastor was just about ready to begin his sermon. Our girls were young, and before I agreed, I thought about how my house looked. I had Special K roast in the oven and we were also having steamed broccoli and bread. I hadn’t made dessert, but told my husband we had some Pepperidge Farms Milano cookies and I was pretty sure there was ice cream in the freezer.
 
After my husband promised to help me quickly pick up our girl’s toys when we first got home, he invited the young couple to our home. I now realize it wasn’t important what my house looked like or if we had a gourmet meal. What mattered the most is spending time with and getting to know this young couple who were desperately searching for friendship and a church family and were close to giving up. Of course, we didn’t know this at the time.
 
We spent the entire day together, ending with a Sabbath afternoon hike. From that day on, this young couple was included in all the activities that took place in our very large and diverse group of church friends. Several years later they started a family and are still active in this particular church.
 
It wasn’t uncommon for members to linger after church and plan spontaneous Sabbath afternoon picnics, hikes or to converge at one home for an evening of fun. These gatherings were a vital part of our family’s lives and we couldn’t wait to see our friends each week at church.
 
A Pew With a View and Ron
Recently my husband and I visited a church where he was the guest speaker. While my husband was getting his microphone set up, I went to find a seat.
 
I had visited this church once before and remembered it had a beautiful view on the right side of the sanctuary.  At first I sat near the middle aisle, but during the children’s story, I decided to get a seat near one of the windows with the amazing view.
 
The next to the last pew was empty, but a gentleman, who I later learned was Ron, invited me to sit next to him. I looked at my options and decided his pew had a much better view, so I sat down next to him. 
 
Ron was casually dressed in navy slacks and a sweater. I’m guessing he was about 60 years old. I noticed he had a small round band-aid near his right ear. It smelled like he had been around cigarette smoke, but not overly strong.
 
I told him if this were my home church, I would always have to sit near one of the windows with a view. Ron said he had recently moved to the area and had been here only a couple of times. He said he was originally from New York City, which was obvious after hearing his accent. I spent the next hour and a half listening to his story.
 
Ron said he and his wife, who died from breast cancer several years earlier, both graduated from the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY. His wife’s instrument was the violin and his, the trumpet. Ron said his wife played with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for 13 years. He played his trumpet some, but found he could make more money running a hot dog stand and later a restaurant he started and owned.
 
Ron said his recent move was due to a new job in the IT field, but before he could begin work, he had to undergo a mandatory physical. And the day before, he found out he had mesothelioma, a terminal cancer from asbestos exposure.
 
For someone who had just been told he only had a year to live, you would expect to see someone who is distraught. But Ron wasn’t afraid and talked about trying alternative strategies. Of course the company couldn’t fulfill their end of the commitment after his diagnosis, so he would soon go to Rochester, NY to live with his son.
 
By now, I could tell Ron didn’t grow up in the Adventist Church. I learned Ron’s deceased wife had been Adventist. His lack of knowing all the Adventist vocabulary was my clue. After he heard my husband mention Andrews University, he turned to me and asked if that was the school where all the Adventist preachers go to learn how to pastor. I nodded. 
 
I got the feeling that Ron has probably visited more Adventist churches after losing his wife, but he kept talking about how wonderful the Adventist Church is. He referred to Sabbath school class as his “Bible studies” and enthusiastically shared what he had learned that morning.
 
Ron was more on fire than most Adventists I know and so excited about what he had learned that morning in Sabbath school. And Ron made this statement: “I love Adventist churches, because it has diversity – whites, blacks and many other races. Many other churches don’t have diversity, they are just all white folks.”
 
Ron and I talked during most of the church service, and because my husband didn’t introduce me to the church that particular Sabbath, no one knew who I was. I got quite a few dirty glances from church members who were annoyed with our irreverence, but I sensed it was more important to let Ron talk.
 
Despite his terminal diagnosis, Ron told me he wasn’t afraid and believed God could cure his cancer. I wished I could offer him hope, but after church concluded, I prayed with him and we exchanged phone numbers and email addresses.
 
After I introduced Ron to my husband and we said goodbye, I was surprised when several members came up to me, thanking me for talking with Ron. No one really knew much about Ron because he had only been at their church three or four times.  But it was obvious most of the members didn’t quite know how to respond to him. 
 
None of the people I talked with knew about his recent diagnosis. What if I hadn’t sat in a pew with a view? I’m glad I was there, but I can’t help thinking that the members of this particular church should have taken an interest in Ron, as it should every guest who comes into their church.
 
This experience got me thinking about our churches. How many of our members would seek someone like Ron out or invite him to their home? Most Adventists aren’t comfortable having people come to their church who don’t fit the “Adventist mold,” especially if they smell of cigarette smoke or alcohol. How many Adventists would befriend someone who goes outside to smoke?
 
Jesus showed brotherly love to all He met throughout his earthly ministry and instructs us to do the same. “Though He was a Jew, Jesus mingled freely with the Samaritans, setting at nought the Pharisaic customs of His nation. In face of their prejudices He accepted the hospitality of this despised people. He slept with them under their roofs, ate with them at their tables,--partaking of the food prepared and served by their hands,--taught in their streets, and treated them with the utmost kindness and courtesy. And while He drew their hearts to Him by the tie of human sympathy, His divine grace brought to them the salvation which the Jews rejected” (The Ministry of Healing, p 26).
 
Yeah, Ron didn’t fit the Adventist mold, but I was blessed to have met him and hear his story. And Ron’s simple faith and trust in a higher power was humbling and inspirational.
 
What About the Church Today?
If our churches are serious about evangelism and growing, it needs to examine how visitors are treated. It doesn’t make sense to develop strategies for evangelism and inviting people to church if we don’t know how to treat those who come on their own. It might also help us retain those we baptize from evangelistic campaigns.
 
I wouldn’t invite any of my Adventist or non-Adventist friends to my current church, because I don’t feel any sense of community or friendship. And my move away from home made me realize that most of our churches need to improve on being visitor friendly.
 
But this isn’t a new issue; even the first century church wasn’t immune to these problems.  The church in Jerusalem didn’t welcome Saul. “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).
 
Often we are more accepting of those with similar tastes and income. I have very little in common with some of my best friends. What if I had stifled my relationship with them? I would have missed out on some great friendships. Christ counsels the church: “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:7)
 
One of the best ways to reach people is to befriend them as Jesus did. “It is through the social relations that Christianity comes in contact with the world” (The Adventist Home, p. 428). We are also admonished: “A new commandment I give you; Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
 
Lastly, we need to ensure all church visitors receive a warm and welcoming reception. “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in” (Matthew 25:35).
 
Welcoming visitors needs to be part of the church’s vision, mission and core values. Visitors should find a community of believers that unequivocally welcomes and accepts every person.
 
We Must Be Intentional
The church must be intentional about being a visitor friendly church. We are losing our children and families who relocate. And what about those who join our church following an evangelistic crusade? Are we befriending them? If our churches became known as a great place to meet fellow believers and friends, we would be filled to capacity.
 
Our church leaders love to talk about how our church is impacting the community, such as treating 6,192 people to free healthcare at the hugely successful three-day event, Your Best Pathway to Health, in San Antonio, Texas (McChesney, 2015).  Don’t misunderstand; it is wonderful to see these events taking place, but what happens if these people show up at your church? Would your members welcome, judge or ignore them?
 
What if someone who smells like cigarette smoke or alcohol visits your church? Do you befriend or avoid them?
 
How to Build a Visitor Friendly Church
Do visitor friendly churches just happen? It can, but it’s rare. If churches are serious about growing, it must be intentional about being visitor friendly. It also takes member participation and careful planning to ensure success.
 
1.Awareness of Visitor’s Cold Reception
Many church leaders and pastors have no idea how difficult it is to connect and find community in our churches after moving to a new church and area. And many church members are offended if someone is honest about the cold reception they received at their church.
 
Several years after I moved away from my home conference, I shared my experiences and frustrations with the conference’s leadership team (ADCOM). I soon realized I had offended one of the VPs and his wife who grew up in this particular area. I was promptly put in my place and shamed into silence. I wonder if this couple has had a change of heart, because he is now a president in a conference far from his home.
 
Even my own home church isn’t immune. One of my good friends, who isn’t from my home state, said she felt like an outsider every time she visited my home church.  I could have been offended, but I realize none of our churches are immune.
 
As leaders, we need to be open to other people’s viewpoints and value visitor perceptions of our churches. The leaders of our churches and conference also set the tone and inspire change.
 
It’s more difficult to assimilate in a church that is made up of one or two large families or members who have lived most of their lives in one area. Families often socialize exclusively with one another, making it even more difficult to find community, friendship and causing newcomers to feel like outsiders.
 
Finally, the longer a person has lived in an area makes it more difficult to comprehend what it’s like to be the newcomer or visitor. Most church leaders, members and well-known evangelists or speakers have no idea what it feels like to walk in and out of church and have nobody talk to you or show an interest in getting to know you. And most visitors will not return to a church after receiving a cold reception.
 
2.Recognize the Importance of Being a Visitor Friendly Church
Make it part of the church’s vision, mission and core values.
 
Where do you see the church in three years? How will the church accomplish its mission priorities?
 
Does your mission statement include a goal of being a visitor friendly church? If so, what objectives has the church implemented to meet this goal?
 
It takes commitment of members to implement a new strategy and make a difference. It might begin with an elder or family, but as members catch the vision and begin to pray earnestly for its guests, it can start a movement and change the way we approach church.
 
3.Physically Prepare for Visitors
What kind of impression does your facility give to newcomers?  Does the building need a fresh coat of paint, cleaning or accessibility? Are the signs in good shape and is the lawn regularly trimmed? Members might not think about this, but these are the first things that a visitor sees.
 
And when the visitor comes into your church, are there signs directing them to the bathrooms, children’s divisions, sanctuary, and office? Does your children’s divisions include dismissal times for Sabbath school or have members ready to assist with questions? Is there a small glass for guests to see what’s inside the classrooms and sanctuary? It’s intimidating for guests to open a door into the unknown.
 
How is the church gathering a record of visitors without embarrassing them? Is this accomplished by a guest book, visitor cards, or through personal contact? How is this information obtained?
 
Does your church reserve seats for visitors? I wouldn’t suggest labeling it, but if members knew to refrain from sitting in certain areas, such as the back two rows.
 
4.Educate Members and Formulate a Plan
After the members understand why it’s important to be a visitor friendly church, the church needs to formulate a plan with goals and objectives and coordinate duties.
 
It takes much more than a greeter handing a bulletin to make guests feel welcome and a desire to come back. In most congregations, members believe it’s the greeter’s duty to speak to the visitors. But it takes committed members working together to become a visitor friendly church.
 
5.Welcome Guests and Put Them At Ease
First time guests are nervous, apprehensive, curious and sometimes even reluctant. But when it comes to welcoming our guests, never embarrass them! I’ve visited churches where the greeter hugged me and made me feel uncomfortable. Some people aren’t comfortable hugging, even their closest friends. Visitors often want to blend into the crowd, but if they are searching for a home church, they are also looking for friendship.
 
After teaching at a local church school for several years, a well-intentioned member greeted me one Sabbath morning and said, “Hello, are you visiting us today?” I didn’t want to embarrass her and just kindly smiled and took the bulletin.
 
The greeter’s smile, handshake and welcome communicates, “We are glad you are visiting us today.” But never ask if they are visiting.  And everyone who greets should write the visitor’s names down (secretly) so they will remember it when they introduce them to other members.
 
It would be much better to say something like this, “I don’t believe we have met. My name is ________.” They will likely tell you their name and let you know if they are visiting. You might also learn if they have recently moved, if they are looking for a home church or if they are visiting friends or family in the area.
 
It’s not only important to have greeters in the foyer or church parking lot, but when greeters introduce the new family (by name) to other church members who are standing nearby, it makes a huge impact on the visitors. And if the greeter introduces the guests to a family with similar age children, similar careers or a family originally from the same area, it often helps guests find connections and feel at ease.
 
How Michael Redefined the Role of Greeter to Director of First Impressions
Michael married one of my classmates from academy. Michael had a Ph.D. in chemistry and professed no belief in God, but agreed to attend church (my old home church) with his wife.
 
Michael’s views on God slowly changed and the church asked him to become a greeter. He didn’t know the church doctrine and had absolutely no training to become a greeter but defined his own job description.
 
On Sabbath morning, Michael would arrive early and wait inside at the door of the church. As the first cars arrived, he would walk out to the parking lot and greet the people with a warm welcome, a huge smile and a bulletin. He would open doors and help families get inside the church, hang up their coats and help visitors find the right classroom for their children.
 
Everyone felt like Michael was genuinely happy to see him or her. Michael took the simple role of a greeter and elevated it to new heights and was the director of first impressions. Every church needs many people like Michael.
 
6.Connect With Your Guests
 
Everyone actively working on the church’s team to become a visitor friendly church needs to assume responsibility for guests within five or six feet around them. And when visitors sit nearby, members need to casually but enthusiastically greet them.
 
Don’t embarrass your guests by having them stand up during the church service. It is much better to have a meet and greet segment. Instead of first visiting with their close friends, members need to greet guests first.
 
Invite guests to your home for dinner, especially if you feel you made an authentic connection. Your church’s welcoming team might set up a schedule of members who look for guests to invite home. This isn’t a time to share your position on diet, theology or wearing jewelry; it’s a time to make new friends. And try to include some gluten-free options to accommodate guests with potential dietary challenges.
 
If your church has a fellowship dinner, invite your guests to lunch, but don’t isolate or ignore them. We all have a tendency to congregate with our close friends, but should instead use this as an opportunity to connect and make a new friend(s).
 
When the guests are about to leave, it’s important to have members connect with them again by name and thank them for visiting your church. This also gives members an opportunity to answer any question they might have.
 
Follow up by contacting your guests during the subsequent week. The ideal is to contact your guests with a phone call. It is more effective if this call comes from the member who felt he/she made a connection on Sabbath. Other methods include a personal letter by mail, which gives an opportunity to share the church’s history and values.
 
Always remember that people care more about your heartfelt interest in their lives and how you made them feel.  Another method to connect is through personal visits after an appointment is made. But hopefully the initial visit and follow up prompts a return visit and the guests are well on their way to becoming a regular attendee.
 
7.Invite Guests
Since moving from my home conference, I have a handful of non-Adventist friends who are experiencing the same phenomena in their church. Like me, they are far from where they grew up and since I know what it feels like to be a guest in the local churches, I wouldn’t invite any of my friends to my church.
 
But if a church truly became a visitor friendly church, I would not hesitate to invite non-Adventist or out-of-state friends.
 
8.Provide Friendship Opportunities
Churches need to realize the welcoming process must continue; otherwise people will leave. I’ve heard people talk about never seeming to break into the inner-circle.  I’ve experienced this myself.
 
Church shouldn’t be exclusive, but inclusive.  It is much easier to keep people who have visited our church than it is to get people to come in the first place. Our churches have much more to offer besides friendship, but we might not have the opportunity to share this if they don’t find friendship and community.
 
Our churches need to become a place to meet people and form relationships. Some churches hold orientations periodically to help assimilate newcomers, but it’s more important and effective if new friendships are first formed.
 
Church socials, classes and groups also offer opportunities to meet people and form relationships. But don’t ask your new members to join a group in order to find friendship. Joining a small group at church should be in response to a desire to serve and grow.
 
One female friend shared her experience of joining a women’s group at church, hoping this would help her find friendship and community. But she learned that she was purposely not invited to several of the group’s events. It made her feel like it was hopeless to really find authentic friendship in this particular church.
 
I’ve seen many new converts leave our church, because we didn’t realize they needed friendship and community, especially if they are the only Adventists in their family. But long-time Adventists feel a similar isolation when they move far from their home church and conference.
 
9.  Request Feedback
It’s important to receive feedback to learn about visitor’s perceptions, what worked or didn’t, advice on how to improve, and what won them over. Long-time members aren’t qualified to give feedback. If a church is serious about growing and welcoming everyone into God’s family, it will seek feedback and reassess its goals and objectives.
 
Why It’s Important
If churches want to impact its communities and make a difference, it’s imperative to become a visitor friendly church. While it is easy to care about our circle of friends, God implores us to extend our hospitality to everyone: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
 
More than ever, people need a place to escape from the insanity of the world. Our church can fill this need, but if we continue to ignore and exclude newcomers and new converts into our circle of friends, they will likely leave our church.
 
The method Jesus used was to befriend people. “The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’ There is need of coming close to the people by personal effort. If less time were given to sermonizing, and more time were spent in personal ministry, greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, the inexperienced counseled. We are to weep with those that weep, and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of persuasion, the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit” (The Ministry of Healing, pp. 143-144).
 
Now, more than ever, our churches need to be a place of refuge, a house of prayer, a beacon of hope that offers a revelation of Christ. I want to see my church grow and prosper, accepting all who come in. Just think of all the people you can encourage and reach by your friendship. Won’t you allow the Holy Spirit to use you in a mighty way to make a difference?
 


*This article was written by a Church Employee, the spouse of a Church Administrator, who candidly talks about her journey in the church. 



References
 
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