From Salvationist 23 March 2019
A MAN wearing a large hat attended church and sat down in the front row. Just before the service began the woman sitting next to him, and two men in the row behind, asked him to take the hat off. He didn’t respond. Then, after the minister had a word with him about his hat, the man replied: ‘I’ve been coming to this church for six weeks, and this is the first time anyone has spoken to me!’
I’m not sure if that’s a true story, but it’s a good one – highlighting the need for us to give newcomers a warm welcome.
Out of interest I searched the internet to see if there are websites giving ideas on how to welcome people. There are – a lot! One website has ‘five creative ideas for welcoming new guests’ and another has ‘ten ways to make visitors feel welcome at your church’. The most imaginative I found has ‘fifty ways to welcome new people’. There is no shortage of ideas about what to do and say to make people welcome, and one of them stressed the importance of first impressions. It said: ‘Forty per cent of visitors make up their mind about a church before they even see the pastor, according to Barna Research. Within two minutes of the beginning of a service visitors have formed an opinion about whether the congregation is friendly.’
The value of a warm welcome is illustrated in a number of ways in this week’s Salvationist. Pages 4 and 5 have a report from the recent Intercultural Mission Conference. One session included a mime showing the importance of a ‘warm and genuine corps welcome’, a point emphasised by a delegate originating from Zimbabwe who said he’d received a ‘really great’ welcome at his corps and other delegates said the welcome they’d received was what made them stay.
In an interview on pages 10 and 11 Derick Kane, who has just retired after 42 years with the International Staff Band, points out that staff band concerts attract many people who were once part of the Army. ‘That gives the staff band a big responsibility,’ he says. ‘So the spoken word before a concert, the spoken word at an interval, the Bible message given in a concert – they all become very important alongside the music.’ Welcoming words can make a big difference.
Sadly, it’s probably not the case that every corps is a warm and welcoming place! But it’s encouraging to hear of the many that are and of people who have stayed and become soldiers or adherent members as a result. The people featured on page 18, our new commitments page, are examples of that. Two of them specifically mentioned the ‘loving’ and ‘warm’ welcome they’d received.
I was once told that if someone is to feel warmly welcomed they need to have seven meaningful contacts when they first visit. Why seven? Maybe it’s because seven is thought to be the number of perfection so that makes it a perfect welcome. But perfect or not, let’s make sure people know we’re glad to see them.
From the Editor,
LIEUT-COLONEL JONATHAN ROBERTS
Check out our Article of the Week here.
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