Imagine walking into a building you’ve never been in before. You’re not sure you even want to be there in the first place, but you hesitantly decide to check it out. You look around and are confused and not sure what to think.
Immediately, you notice there are people talking to each other and they seem busy in their own conversations. Nobody helps you find your way or even acknowledges that you are there. People seem to be talking a different language, and even looking at you strangely, maybe even questioning what you are doing there. And in the back of your mind you think, “I knew I shouldn’t have come. I had a really bad experience the last time I was in a building like this and I’m sure nothing has changed. I should have stayed home.”
For many of us, especially church leaders, we have not had this experience when walking into a church for a very long time. We’re comfortable, and walking into the building often feels like home. We can easily forget how much baggage and anxiety people can have when walking into a new environment.
What can we do?
When it comes to welcoming people into your community, it is really important to be intentional. Especially if you are trying to reach people who do not come from a church background. There are many simple things you can do to help people feel at ease when they enter your building. Here are a few suggestions that may help.
How you design your environments, from the entryway and throughout your building, often requires the ability to see from an outside perspective. What will someone notice? Will they feel welcome? Or will they feel instantly alienated because they don’t understand what they are seeing? One thing that can really help is to find something that you love that can be integrated throughout the building. In our community, we are passionate about art. We have relationships with local artists and have art hanging throughout our campus. It often surprises new guests, and also helps them see instantly that we value beauty and creativity.
How you welcome people also requires focus. A simple greeting saying, “Welcome, we’re glad you’re here,” can make all the difference to someone. It helps them feel valued and doesn’t require them to make awkward small talk. Making sure that your greeting teams know the value of why you welcome people and how to make them feel at ease is so important.
Offering something that is familiar is another great way to welcome guests. Serving coffee and allowing them to have a cup in their hand when they are walking in is a way that many people feel safe and at ease. It’s familiar and something that people recognize and understand universally.
Once you find something that you love and that is important to your community, figure out ways to be known for it to people outside the church walls. We spend time developing relationships with local artists and offer two art shows per year. Artists display their work and we open our campus to the public at no charge. People in our city get the opportunity to view and appreciate great work, and they also get to experience a big part of who we are as a church, without ever attending one of our services. We don’t ask people to come to a service first. We simply allow them to experience us and who we are in a unique way.
These are a few simple ways that can impact people visiting your church. Creating an environment within your community where people feel comfortable helps to bring their guard down and allow them to experience God in a new way. When you embrace the things you love, and are authentic in every area of your community, it is evident and makes a big difference.
What are some ways that you can be more intentional about making sure you are living out a community wide focus in all of your environments?