It was one of those e-mails that, as a pastor, I hate to receive. No, this particular message did not criticize the theological perspective of my latest sermon, question a recent leadership decision, or disparage my current hairstyle (though a few of those would have been understandable circa 2006).
With such a kind, caring congregation, I don’t get many critical e-mails… But the one I received was worse than all of those combined.
I’d recently written in a Pastor’s Note about “on campus evangelism,” noting Thom Rainer’s “Seven Things Church Members Should Say to Guests in a Worship Service.” And later that week, the e-mail found it’s way to my inbox.
It began complimentary: “What a wonderful article regarding welcoming visitors on Sunday morning, and really, any time.”
The next line stopped me in my tracks, reading,
I stopped going to Good Shepherd as I felt the church was not a welcoming church. Your church does many social events to bring people together but when you go to events like Open Table or Sunday services, the same people sit together. This is nice as they are spending time with their friends but that doesn't make visitors feel welcome. After years of involvement, I have had just two people ask me my name and welcome me.
Like I said, it’s one of those e-mails I hate to receive. And yet, it’s not the only one of its kind. This has been the experience of others, as well. While it’s difficult to receive such an e-mail, it’s important that we pay attention and hear its message to us.
On Saturday, September 19th from 9-11am in the Round Room, our Elder Sue Nelson-Brown and our Welcoming Team will be engaging new curriculum on how to effectively welcome newcomers to our campus. I invite you to attend… I know I’ll be there! In the midst of a busy Sunday morning, I could use a refresher on how best to welcome others!
I’ll conclude with the last line from that email:
Keep working on the concept of encouraging people to meet visitors and invite them to join them for a cup of coffee after the service - anything to make them feel welcome, introduce them to your friends.