Prior to its inception six years ago, members of the launch team for mosaicHouse Christian Reformed Church, a church plant in Edmonton, Alberta, visited about a dozen churches in the city. They visited churches of different denominations, shapes, and sizes. These included small, medium, and large churches meeting in conventional church buildings, school gyms, cafes, and movie theaters.
Afterward, I asked everyone on the team to answer this question: “Having been to these churches as visitors, what is one thing that we must do well once we start our own church plant?” It was not surprising to hear their responses: “We must be a welcoming body of Christ!”
The people on the launch team were reacting to the overwhelming impression they’d had when visiting these churches: the lack of a personal welcome before, during, and after the worship service. This was consistent both in small churches where it was very obvious that we were visitors and in larger churches where it was not readily apparent whether we were members or visitors.
Our experiences led us to the conviction that we must instill in our church DNA a specific value: to become a welcoming and hospitable congregation. In essence, we set out to create a certain culture in the life of the church. Here are some of the habits and beliefs we instituted into the DNA of our church plant:
- The Lord Jesus Christ is a welcoming and hospitable Host, and therefore so is his church.
- We do not use the term “visitor.” Instead we use the word “guest.”
- We make a point of recruiting hospitable and welcoming people to serve as greeters.
- During the time of greeting in the service, we encourage people to introduce themselves to those around them whom they haven’t met before. This includes getting out of their seats and crossing the aisles.
- We teach and empower the church to avoid saying things like, “Are you new here?” Instead, we offer concrete suggestions like, “Hello! My name is Judy. I don’t believe we’ve met. . . .”
- Everyone wears a nametag—not just guests—so that guests will not “stand out.” Most people feel welcomed and acknowledged if others remember their name.
- Every Sunday we invite our guests to “table fellowship” following the service of worship. To make this happen, we have created four table fellowship teams, each serving one Sunday a month. Their commitment entails setting up tables and chairs, preparing coffee and other beverages, bringing a dish to share, and then after the meal cleaning up and putting away tables and chairs. Our people are asked and expected to serve on one of these teams.
What we have learned firsthand in the process is that creating an environment of welcome and hospitality is one of the first steps churches can take toward making disciples for Jesus Christ.
Now we can joyfully thank the Lord, the divine Host, for helping us create an atmosphere in which a vast majority—if not all—of our guests tell us how much they appreciate our welcome and hospitality.
Carrying out the Great Commission and making disciples can be done more effectively when the church of Christ, following the Holy Spirit, builds a culture in which everyone buys into the vision and chooses to engage in its practices.
And so we at mosaicHouse Church continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to empower us to bear fruit in other areas of making disciples—areas like tithing, communing with the risen Christ in daily Scripture, and prayer. All of these practices help us to live out the Great Commandment and carry out the task of making disciples in the context of weekly house churches and serving the orphans, widows, and immigrants in Edmonton.