When I was growing up, I used to watch re-runs of a show called ‘Cheers’. The show was named after a bar in Boston, where a diverse group of people would meet, drink, and talk about whatever was happening in life. They felt welcomed, included, and could unburden. The show’s theme song had a line, ‘Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came’. Whilst a church is different to a bar, we should have that same sense of welcome and togetherness.
We want St Andrew’s to be a welcoming community, whether people are coming here to explore faith, or to find a church home in which to grow. Coming to a new place can be daunting, so we try to do a few things make it easier. We invite people to make themselves known through our ‘Welcome Card’, we have regular newcomer lunches, and we suggest people try our ‘Partnership’ course as a way of getting to know the church and meeting people. We even have that sometimes awkward spot in our services called the ‘Greeting of Peace’ where we get you to introduce yourself to one another.
But doing these things doesn’t make us a welcoming community. What makes us welcoming is not a process, but a mind-set. We are a family, albeit a very big and diverse family. And what do families do? They love, include, and have affection for each other, even if they are a bunch of dysfunctional misfits (sinners). When you realise that other people at church are your brothers and sisters in Christ, that should help you to open up to them. That means everyone’s a welcomer.
We don’t naturally speak easily with new people – it’s easier to stay quiet and rush out the door when church is done. So here are a few tips to help you to connect. Introduce yourself and ask their name. Ask them a question or two, something like ‘How long have you been coming to church?’, or ‘What have you been enjoying about church?’. Help the person with any questions they may have about church. The next time you see that person at church again, make sure you reconnect. Maybe after the service you can have coffee or lunch.
Paul reminds us of this mindset, ‘Welcome one another, just as Christ welcomed you in order to bring praise to God’ (Rom. 15:7).