Have you noticed them? I’m talking about all of the new faces in church. They’ve been here. New folks. First-time guests. Maybe a better question would be, have you met them? There is a difference, you know. Noticing simply takes observation. All you have to do is watch with your eyes and you notice things. We all notice a lot of things every day. Meeting someone requires you to take an extra step or two (usually literally!). Meeting someone requires you to move from your familiar place where you are surrounded by familiar faces to a new place where you make contact with a new face. It’s part of something we call hospitality, and it’s something we all should be doing. Let me share some theory first, and then I’ll give you a method.
Here are some things I have learned and come to believe: Hospitality is the responsibility of everyone. It’s not just the Hospitality Ministry Team, or the Greeter, or the Usher, or the Coffee Host who should be practicing hospitality – it’s all of us. We need to shift our thinking from ‘visitor’ to ‘guest.’ I have a lot of visitors stop by my house (most of them are eager to leave a flyer of some kind with me). They don’t often get an invitation to come in or to return. A guest, on the other hand, is warmly welcomed because they have been eagerly awaited. They are greeted, invited in, made comfortable, exceedingly loved, and before they leave, issued a sincere invitation to return. The first 30 seconds to a first-time guest are critical. If they are not greeted and engaged within 30 seconds, they are unlikely to return. People aren’t looking for a friendly church; they are looking for a church where they can find a new friend. There is a difference – and it involves relationships. We can wave from across the room, say “Hi” when someone walks by, or even help a new person find a seat, and be seen as friendly. But people aren’t necessarily looking for friendly; they’re looking for new friends, and that takes engagement.
So let me give you a “tried-and-true” method for engaging with new people. It’s called the “5-10-Link” rule. 5 refers to time: Fellowship and visiting with friends is so important in church. 5 minutes before the service starts and 5 minutes after it ends, meet someone you don’t know! 10 refers to space: Even if you are with a group of friends, when someone you don’t know comes within 10 feet of you, reach out to them and invite them into your group! Link refers to connecting: When you meet someone new, immediately link them to someone else based on some common affinity (occupation, home, state, interests, etc.). I know this isn’t easy for some people…maybe for many people. But we need to remember that it’s not about us – it’s about those who are seeking a new relationship, with God and with other people.
Remember the words of Hebrews 13:2 – “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
You Have Been Blessed to Be A Blessing,