Tag: Invitation

Meeting New People in Church

You have a choice. The Sunday morning routine begins. You find yourself in the same seat of your section. Next thing you know, a person who you have not met sits next to you. The internal questions begin to race through your mind. Should I say hello? Will I scare them off? What if I say something weird? How will they respond?

The choice comes down to greeting or letting them move on quietly. What choice do you usually make?

This situation can conjure up a host of emotions like fear and anxiety. Your response can result from having an extroverted or introverted personality.

Consider the role reversal. Whenever any of us walks into a new space, we hope someone will take the risk of meeting us. It alleviates a little of our anxiety and can help us get to know other people. This situation full of unknowns becomes more known.

Acknowledging the presence of a new person speaks volumes to what you believe about the Gospel. We welcome people warmly because Jesus has done the same for us. When you take the time to meet a person, you communicate their value as one created in the Image of God.

The next time you encounter a new person, rather than letting fear and anxiety keep you from meeting them, consider these steps:

1. Introduce Yourself and Find Out Their Name.

The first step can take the most courage. Take the time to not only find out their name, but remember it. You may want to use it two-three times in the conversation to help you remember it. You taking this first step helps a person feel noticed.

2. Ask Questions and Listen.

Once the introduction ends, carrying the conversation can become difficult. Start by asking, “Where are you from?” Most times that question will open the door to get to know a person. Then you can move to the question, “How did you find out about the church?” You might find similarity in your story. Most importantly, listen to what they say. You validate people by giving them the space to share their story.

3. Watch for Cues.

Most conversations happen before or after a worship gathering. If the gathering begins, be cognizant of a person wanting to get to service on time. At the end of service, a person may have to pick up their kids or go to another event.

A couple of cues to end a conversation: checking their phone, nervous tapping, looking around, and mentioning they need to go. Cues for staying in conversation includes eye contact, positive flow of conversation, and a relaxed posture.

4. Avoid the Pass Off.

You know the feeling of getting your phone call transferred. Sometimes in our exuberance to help someone connect at church, we immediately want to introduce them to other people. Remember how participating in a new setting can become overwhelming. You are a living human being talking to another living human being.

If a person has a specific question and they want the answer, then that would be an appropriate time to connect with a church leader. Recognize the next steps the person wants to take. Often, they want to start by getting to know a few people before taking a next step.

5. Invite follow up.

When you end the conversation, offer to exchange emails. Making a connection can make the difference between coming back to a church the following week – or not. People feel welcomed when you follow up with them. It speaks volumes to them feeling important if a person takes the time to make themselves available.

Also, invite them to events at the church. Think of the groups, classes, or gatherings that could be a good fit for them.

The time you take on Sunday to meet new people communicates far more than you can ever realize. Jesus not just saw people, but He welcomed them. He calls us to do the same.

How have you helped people feel welcomed at church?

Photo by Nina Strehl.

You’re Invited, You’re Included

Fifth graders have a few awkward moments. Remember in gym class the agony of picking teams. We hoped we make the cut before the last pick. Another moment came at the end of the day. The whirlwind of leaving school wreaked havoc. You could see one of your classmates with a stack of sealed envelopes. He or she would subtly pass them out. You and I would play it cool by taking extra time zipping our backpack while anxiously waiting to get our card.

kaboompics.com_Cute dog sitting under the table

Part of our childhood experience does not change. Even with a calm demeanor on the outside, we wait, anticipate, and hope for the invite. The verbal gesture or the sealed envelope says to us, “You’re included.”

One of the most powerful scenes of the Gospels comes from Matthew 9:9-13. The writer of the book recounts the moment Jesus called him. An unsuspecting and looked down upon tax collector leaves his both to follow Jesus. Not only that, but Jesus eats at his house. Someone who the religious leaders would deem non-invited and non-included, Jesus welcomes.

In this moment in scripture, consider what Matthew says to all his readers. The grace of Jesus invited and included me in my brokenness, so to Christ invites and includes you. When we experience the Gospel, we not only recognize how Christ has invited but how He has called us to include others.

Brennan Manning in the Ragamuffin Gospel titled a chapter “Grazie, Signore,” Italian for “Thank You.” He makes this connection of our thankfulness for Christ’s grace and our relationship with others:

Each encounter with a brother or sister is a mysterious encounter with Jesus Himself. In the upper room, the Man like us but ungratefulness spelled out the game plan of gratitude: “Love one another as I have loved you.” To Peter on the beach along the Sea of Tiberias, He said, “If you love me, Simon Son of John, tend my sheep.” Quite simply, our deep gratitude to Jesus Christ is manifested neither in being chaste, honest, sober, and respectable, nor in churchgoing, Bible-toting, and Psalm-singing, but in our deep and delicate respect for one another (pg. 123)

Gratitude for the grace of God moves us far beyond answering the question at the table, “What are you thankful for?” Our response of gratefulness to the Gospel calls us to invite and include others. When we encounter people, grace reminds us of what Jesus has done for us which leads us to see what Christ has done for the people He brings into our lives.

In this season of Thanksgiving, who has God brought to you to say, “You’re invited. You’re included”? The momentous invitation from Christ has brought us into His grace, and He calls us to extend this to others.

Photo credit by Kaboompics.

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