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The Flourishing Church: Healthy Community

May 8, 2024
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Not as Welcoming as You Might Think?

“Why are we doing this again, Rhonda?”

“It will be fine, John. Remember that Sophia, the nice lady from work, invited us. She has been so kind to me since Dad died. We really need to do this for both us and the kids.”

“But of all the churches – Anglican? I mean I looked online and I am not sure that we fit their ‘mold’ if you know what I mean.”

“Just give it a try…I promise we will get home in time for the football game!”

And with this conversation as the background, one that is full of trepidation and uncertainty, John and Rhonda now walk into your church on Sunday morning. How will they be greeted? How will they understand the intricacies of Anglican liturgy? How will they be “welcomed again” after they leave the Sunday morning service? 

A Biblical Call: Feeding a Deeper Hunger

I wonder if most of the leaders within the church are entirely too confident in their readiness to greet new folks in their midst. When asked about their welcoming ministry, they often provide responses that include: “we pass the black book across the pew to recognize visitors,” “we give a gift to anyone attending for the first time” or “we have a wonderful volunteer that always identifies new people and tells them all about the church programs.” And, certainly, these traditional ways of welcoming visitors all have value. However, as God’s Church, we are being called into something much deeper when it comes to how we see and receive those who are coming into our parishes for the first time. 

We see repeated throughout the New Testament that God is constantly offering to deliver all people out of darkness and into His glorious light. And, His precious bride is called to joyfully receive them.

God’s Church is to continually be a reflection of all that His Kingdom provides. As we see repeated throughout the New Testament, in passages such as Colossians 1:3, Acts 26:18, and 1 Peter 2:9, God is constantly offering to deliver all people out of the authority of darkness and into His glorious light. And, His precious bride is called to be ready to joyfully receive those who hunger for this tremendous life-giving light when they appear on the doorstep. In other words, John and Rhonda have come because they are looking for something more than free coffee mug or the obligatory thank you card for visiting the church. When they come to your church, they are exploring whether there really is something more to be found in both the ancient liturgy and the people who worship there. They are seeking to discover whether this is a place where they truly belong.

Every worldly outlet is interested in the Johns and Rhondas of the world.

That hunger for belonging is the real secret to bringing Christ into our welcoming ministries. For you see, every worldly outlet is interested in the Johns and Rhondas of the world for the wrong reasons – they want their vote, their money, or their brand loyalty. As such, the last thing that these visitors want to hear is a sales pitch or to feel as though they are merely the target of some type of quota to grow the Church’s reported “average Sunday attendance” numbers. 

Instead, visitors to a church deeply desire to be known and to be heard. They bring their pain, their disappointment, and their uncertainty with them. They come on a Sunday morning asking if the Lord really cares about them and whether Christianity really offers something different. So how do we respond? We listen to them rather than talking at them. We care about where they are in their lives rather than immediately offering solutions through church programs. We sacrificially invest our time by asking them to a coffee that same week because we genuinely want to know who they are and learn more about the experiences that have shaped their lives. 

Welcoming to People, not Programs

Recently, I learned that one of the rectors of our largest churches in the Diocese takes the time every week to handwrite a note to anyone who visits for the first time, and always includes his cell phone number in the note. He explained to me that offering immediate access to the senior pastor sends a critical message to each visitor that they matter and that the Church truly wants to know them. At another parish, volunteers with Christ-centered hearts for others organically approach folks that they have not seen before to hear their stories and invite them to come and visit their homes for a potluck meal with friends. Another one of our rectors invites every visitor to sit and have lunch with him one-on-one, rather than in a larger group setting, so that he can learn how God is moving in their lives. Each of these leaders demonstrate that listening like Jesus—not selling, as in a business—must be at real heart of our welcoming ministries. 

Listening like Jesus—not selling, as in a business—must be at real heart of our welcoming ministries. 

We must all be ready, brothers and sisters, because the Lord is moving and bringing the curious, the downtrodden, and the highly skeptical to our doorsteps in a fresh way this year. They hope to find something unique, something foreign to the world they know: the unconditional love of a Savior. Are we ready to demonstrate the fullness of that love and grace that showers over us by greeting our neighbors with the most wonderful gift of all – a listening and empathetic ear? Christ-centered welcoming ministries that are founded in this truth reap great fruit – new and eager people coming to our churches who begin to trust that the Church really can bring them to the beautiful and transforming light of Jesus.

Application Questions

So let me close with just a few questions for you and your Church to consider when it comes to your welcoming ministry:

  1. Who are the people within your church that not only have a passion to connect with visitors but also have a willingness to listen and learn about them?
  2. What is the invitation that you teach people in your church to extend when they meet someone visiting? Is it to tell them about a program or to instead invite them to a coffee or a lunch?
  3. How will those not familiar with your liturgy experience it for the first time? What tools have you created to help unpack the richness of the worship so that it is inviting rather than overwhelming?
  4. How engaged is your rector in connecting with visitors? What else might he be able to do to further the welcoming ministry? What can you do to help him?
  5. How are your specific ministries prepared to welcome visitors? In particular, do you intentionally invest time teaching those in ministries such as children’s, small groups, and seniors how to actively listen to and engage with visitors? 
  6. Do you sometimes find that the excuse of “we don’t want to pressure them” has become an obstacle to furthering the Lord’s authority in truly engaging with visitors through coffees, lunches, or other more intimate follow-ups? If so, how can you break through this barrier and better integrate such invitations into the welcoming ministry?

If you would like to discuss the ideas of this article or your Church’s welcoming ministry further, please feel free to contact me at bkrizner  @

Header/Featured Photo Credit

Woodland Fields Photography, 2022