Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, once said, “The local church is the hope of the world.”
That is quite a responsibility for any church member! You have probably helped stimulate church growth by raising your children in the church, but I suggest that we all have a calling to do more than that.
My husband and I have been church greeters for over 20 years. When greeting guests, we try to ask a few questions, like “Are you visiting or newcomers to the area?” If they are newcomers, we ask their name and write it down for further reference. Most people are very friendly. Greeting isn’t always easy, but the reward comes later when someone says, “Thank you for talking to me,” or, “You are the first person to remember our names, and it makes us feel like we belong.” We have asked other members of our church to take a turn to be greeters. Some people are quite shy and are unsure about doing this—but invariably afterward they say, “It was fun!”
We always wonder how we will be greeted in other Christian Reformed churches. Typically the greeters will say hello and shake hands with us. Other than that, though, we have been left standing in the middle of a fellowship hall, holding our coffee and cookies while everyone else is busy chatting with their friends. If this has ever happened to you, you know what that feels like.
It’s a pleasant surprise when people take the time to say hello to us. But are they really interested in us? Would we ever join one of these churches? Probably not.
My experience has taught me that “hello” is not enough. We are called to make newcomers feel comfortable and welcome. To accept them just as they are. God does! What our churches need are greeters not only before church but also after church. That means you. When you go to your church, look for guests, and make it a point to meet them after the service.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “But this is not my gift.” Trust me: the more you do it, the easier it gets. And how the angels in heaven will sing when you are kind to a seeking stranger! Remember, “The local church is the hope of the world.” May your church grow because you care enough to step out of your comfort zone and enfold newcomers.