Welcome your Guests Well
There is a contemporary discussion happening between missional vs. attractional churches. I believe it is a false dichotomy to pit them against one another, because it is not necessary to chose between them. That being said, I see more danger in the longterm impact for the church when we drift heavily toward the attractional models to the neglect of the missional ones.
Today, I am going to argue for a practice that is motivated by both attractional and missional mindedness. And it has to do with welcoming our guests well on Sundays. When someone, especially someone who is unchurched or dechurched, crosses the many barriers there are between them and a local church gathering, we should honor that step and do our best to help them feel welcomed and loved in our community.
If someone is a guest on a Sunday, it means they have come to you (attractional), but you taking the initiative to welcome them and get to know them requires you to take a step toward them (missional). And it is a much easier step for you than befriending someone new outside the doors of your church. Welcoming guests on Sundays is critical. What is one way you can do that better?
You can institute the 3-minute rule.
What is the 3-minute Rule?
The 3-minute rule is really quite simple and it is based on the idea that within the first three minutes after the Sunday morning service ends, nearly all your guests have either been engaged in conversation or have left the building. They won't hang around, sitting alone, with no one to talk with them. Sadly, most church goers first action after the service ends is to find their best friends and catch up with them. When churches practice the 3-minute rule, they intentionally find the people they don't know first and engage them in conversation. Your friends will probably still be there when you finish meeting someone new, so meet the guests first and then catch up with your friends.
Some Tips for Welcoming Guests
Ask about them
The easiest thing you can do is just get to know them. Ask them questions about themselves. Who are they? Are they married? Kids? Jobs? School? Small talk does not come easily to everyone, so I will not assume that everyone is inherently good at this, but do your best to just keep asking questions and genuinely listen to their answers.
"How long have you been coming here?"
Whenever I encourage people to meet someone new after the service, I often hear that they are afraid they will introduce themselves to someone who isn't new. First of all, that isn't a problem. If you are part of the church, and they are part of the church, then it is not a problem for you to meet one another.
Just don't ask the awkward question, "are you new?" After you have introduced yourself, then simply ask, "How long have you been coming here?" This is more open-ended and allows for people to say they are new, or that they have been there for months or even years.
What is your background with faith and church?
Depending on how well the conversation is going, you may feel comfortable to feel out where they are at in their own faith journey. Instead of asking, "Are you a Christian?" You could simply ask them to share what their background is with faith and/or church. Another question you could ask is, "What made you decide to check out our church today?" Allow them to answer your question, listen to their answer, and ask follow up questions that are applicable.
Know your church’s follow-up plan
Get to know your church's plan for following up with new guests. Every church should have one. Just ask a pastor or staff member what yours is, and if there isn't one, then your question might prompt an important discussion. At First Baptist Church, we want people to fill out a Communication Card, get a free gift from our Welcome Center and then attend our next Guest Lunch and/or Starting Point class. Those are baseline next steps. Each of them allows us to continue following up with them, helping them to eventually engage with our Community Groups and Serve Teams, so they can grow into a mature disciple of Jesus as part of our community.
Try to find them next Sunday
Once you have met them on a Sunday, remember their name and look for them the next week. Studies have shown that if someone does not form a genuine relationship with someone at the church (that isn't a pastor or staff) within the first six months, they will probably look for a new church. SO, look for them the next week and try to say hello. You just might the genuine relationship they form at your church.
Its a culture you create not a program to be planned
This is not something that can be planned. It cannot be done through a program or forced onto people. It needs to become part of the culture, the ethos, of your church. And it begins with you! The tipping point to change the culture of a community or organization is not that high. If you can get 10-20% of your people committed to intentionally welcoming guests, the culture will change rapidly. Be one of the people who helps to enact that change and engage someone you don't know in conversation this coming Sunday.