While on a recent trip to Sussex we as a family had the opportunity to visit the church I grew up in. I was excited to take the children with me but not sure if it would be as I remember it? It was now 29 years since I left the church to move to Northampton.
As we approached the building memories came flooding back. The hours I had spent in this church. The times I had climbed up into the balcony without using the stairs. My favourite seat was even there where if you angled your head right you could see half of the football pitch outside (always good for some of the longer sermons)
As we walked in, we were greeted and given a bulletin. However, sadly that was it. We found our own seats and the service began without anyone saying hello. The welcome didn’t get much better as the service began. No-one introduced themselves, there was no welcome to guests or even what the name of the church was called. They did talk about the children’s groups but just announced the names of the groups that were meeting but no reference to the age groups so we were none the wiser as to whether the groups running were for our three children.
Sadly, there was no expectation that there was anyone in the church as a visitor. Their default position was everyone here is a regular and they already know everything so we don’t need to give any information that a guest might need.
After the service, I reflected on what a brilliant team we have here at Broadmead each Sunday. That the welcome guests receive is a good one and those who host the gatherings don’t assume we have no guests. Our children’s and youth leaders are always looking out for new children and giving parents all the information they need to help them engage with what is happening.
I also recognise that it takes a whole church to truly be welcoming not just the welcome team and I have seen that in action more and more lately. Thanks.
Being at my old church made me so thankful to all who serve us to make Broadmead as welcoming as possible. This is back up by feedback received from guests recently who comment about how welcoming a church we are.
But let us not get too smug and comfortable. We need to continue to be welcoming and look for areas to improve. Also, the next challenge is how invitational are we as a church?
On Sunday 24 March we have our next Real Talk (Invitational Gathering) when on the eve of Brexit (maybe) we will be considering do Politics and Faith mix? This will include an interview with our local councillor, Paul Joyce. The gathering will be accessible to people of faith or none and I encourage you to invite people along to engage with this subject.
Let us be a welcoming church but also an invitational church. You never know who might just be waiting for an invitation.
If you want to learn more about welcoming visitors to church you can click here to read an excellent blog