Wishing you a Happy New Year. Today’s message is taken from the curriculum I wrote for St. Paul’s for our January Way of the Month. I think it is appropriate for everyone to take action on starting the new year.
Make Others at Home Here:
For some, the church is a formidable location that may unintentionally instill some fear for visitors and guests. I challenge you, the next time you walk up to the church entrance, stop, and pay attention to everything that your visitors will experience. This is a great time of the year to see what your guests and members see. Now that the hustle of Advent is over, we can slow down and notice what we are noticing. I challenge you to stop at the entrance of your building, sanctuary, narthex and look around. What do you experience? If this was your home and you were welcoming guests, would you change anything? Are things out of place because they have always been there? Is there a better way? Take a colleague with you and explain to each other what you see, hear, smell, taste, touch? Are all of these things welcoming?
When I was a District Manager for RadioShack, I would visit stores every day. First, I would look at the exterior, is the signage in good order, condition of the parking lot, the sidewalk swept, the flower beds weeded? Then I would enter the door and then stop at the entrance mat for a couple of minutes. I would notice cleanliness, neatness (or the lack of it!), odor, lighting (any bulbs burn out), general atmosphere of the people in the store (are they calm and peaceful, or is there a lot of commotion and stress?) If you slow down and pay attention you can sense the feeling of the place. One tip, I can pass along. I took pictures of everything that the public could see, then sat down and looked at the pictures. It is amazing, but I would see things in the photos that I did not see in person! Our churches should FEEL welcoming, not just having a banner saying we are welcoming! Now that COVID restrictions are behind us, What can we do at our church to create a welcoming place for all? We all have the responsibility of making our environment as welcoming as possible. If you see something out of place, either fix it right then and there, or report it to the person responsible or committee in a loving manner!!! Think of ways that you or your committee can do to achieve this goal.
Most Importantly warmly welcome newcomers and visitors or just some you have not met. Offer your name with a smile. Reach out and greet the person you don’t know after worship, during Coffee Hour, in Youth Group or Sunday school. Show a genuine interest in others. Don’t assume that others have greeted this person. All work of the church ultimately is to create a clear path for people to experience God.
”Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Romans 15: 7)
“Welcome her in the Lord as one who is worthy of honor among God’s people. Help her in whatever she needs, for she has been helpful to many, and especially to me.” (Romans 16: 2)
MAKE OTHERS AT HOME HERE. Warmly welcome newcomers and visitors. Wear your name tag. Offer your name with a smile. Reach out and greet the person you don’t know after worship, in Youth Group or Sunday school. Show a genuine interest in others.
1. What does hospitality mean to you?
READ Gen. 18:1-8
1. What stands out to you about the way that Abraham welcomed the 3 men?
2. Do you think it’s possible you might also welcome angels? (Heb 12:2)
3. What does the quality of the goods and Abraham’s haste communicate to the men?
Scenario: In church one Sunday morning, there is a couple that you think you have seen previously and think you might have talked to; but you can’t remember their names. It’s clear that they aren’t fully comfortable at church, but when you see them, you are on your way out the door rushing your kids to hockey practice.
1. What priorities are you juggling in this scenario?
2. What makes you uncomfortable about going up to them?
3. What do you think they need to feel welcome?
4. What do you think you would or should do? Explain.
Churches often feel a tension between being welcoming and growing deep. When we Make Others at Home Here, we often focus on how it can help the stranger and visitor, but it is a blessing to the church as well. Just as Abraham welcomed angels, we welcome people who bring depth of insight and diversity of opinion which helps us grow deeper as well. Make Others at Home Here because when you do, you not only give an opportunity for others to know God through our Church, but you provide our church the opportunity to know God through them.
PRAY TOGETHER. (Pray the Spirit would give you an opportunity to welcome a new person into our church family.)
Ideas for Action: Look for someone you don’t know very well. Invite that person for coffee, a walk or a meal and get to know them. Keep your eyes peeled for the guest or visitor at our church and offer your name and a smile of welcome. Pave the way for new friendships wherever you are. Be intentional about welcoming new people to your committee or team. Plan for some time to reintroduce everyone including the newcomers at your first meeting of the year. Welcome new volunteers to your ministry.
Prayer: Dear Lord, we pray that you would lead us to have a desire for hospitality. Let us be ever mindful of how we can be welcoming to everyone including those who do not feel welcomed. Please give us the eyes to see how people may be left out at our church and grant us the wisdom to include these individuals. We pray for the strength to practice hospitality wherever we go. In Jesus’s name Amen.