This week on the Beardcast Matt and Zach talk about their favorite Christmas Eve Scripture. Connect with the Bearded Theologians at https://www.linktr.ee/Beardedtheologians
Welcoming Guests at Church – 4 Tips
Last weekend, I attended worship somewhere new and I played a game I like to call Friendly Church Bingo. Every time your church shows me how absolutely, fabulously welcoming you are, I give you 5 points. If your church gets 5 points 5 times in a row, you are officially friendly. Let’s play. I’ll be me. You be the church I went to on Sunday.
Things started off well at your church. People smiled at me in the parking lot. I am giving your church 5 points for smiling people in the parking lot. I love seeing happy faces headed to worship.
There were no signs telling me where to go to find your sanctuary (or anything else by the way). I am afraid that’s going to cost you 5 points.
I found your sanctuary without any helpful signs and I was pretty proud of myself for accomplishing that feat, especially since I wound up in the right place before worship started in your beautiful, 13th century inspired building. I will remember people hated signs in the 13th Another game I will have to tell you about later is Mystery Church Treasure Hunt, but I will do that on a different day. As I entered your sanctuary, the nice man standing at your door gave me a bulletin. He did not say hello. He did smile, however. I am going to give you 5 points for this, but I am doing so begrudgingly.
When I sat down, the lady behind me smiled. Y’all sure do know how to smile. She did not talk to me. In fact, no one in your beautiful building did, even though I arrived early and I smiled back at all your smiling faces. Consequently, I busied myself by looking at the majesty of your architecture. Then I noticed someone else decided to sit down in the same pew. Things were about to get exciting; I could feel it and they did…for him. He sat as far away from me as he could and he engaged in a delightful conversation with other people he knew. Your church loses 5 points.
Worship begins. You have excellent liturgy, good preaching, meaningful prayers, and heartfelt music. During Pass the Peace people come to talk to me. They quickly say, “Peace be with you.” You think I am going to give you 5 points for this, but I am not. If your church members are only going to talk to me when someone, who is standing on a 13th century inspired box in the front of the room, tells them to do so, it doesn’t count. That shows me your church members follow the rules; they are obedient. It does not show me they are friendly. I give you 0 points…Wait, I take that back. Since your Pass the Peace lasted ten minutes and all your church people moved to the front to say peace to one another, leaving the new people in the back standing around wondering what is happening, you lose another 5 points. This is not going well for you.
Church is over now. I am getting up to leave. No one speaks to me. The man who sat as far away from me as possible, unfortunately, is blocking the only exit out of this pew. He is talking to one of his friends. They kept talking. I am clearly standing behind him. They kept talking anyway. No one speaks to me. I sat down. His conversation ended after 6 minutes and 11 seconds. I had the chance to time that conversation, you know since no one was talking to me and I was trapped in the pew. It was lovely. Your church loses ALL the points. Oh, but you didn’t have any more. Just subtract 5 points then. You are now at -10 points.
As I leave, your nice pastor talks to me. She is warm and caring. It is too late. You lose Friendly Church Bingo. You do not pass go. You do not collect $200. Thank you for playing. Yes, I know that last bit is from Monopoly.
I really wish this example was not true. It is funny to read about, but it is not funny to experience. Last Sunday was one Sunday out of way too many I have spent in a church where no one except the pastor spoke to me. Church family, I love you and I say this with love. If you get everything in your service right, but you are only welcoming to the people who are already part of your congregation, you missed the mark. You are not showing God’s grace to those God has beckoned to you. If you believe the church belongs to God and not to you, you absolutely must embrace the people God sends to your doorstep with a welcome reflective of God’s love.
Why? Unfortunately, not everyone is as willing to experience unfriendly churches as often as I am. Years earlier, a dear friend of mine went to the same church I just described and had a similar experience. She is not going back. More importantly, this church is one of a handful of unfriendly churches she visited when she was seeking and she gave up entirely. She is not seeking you out anymore. She is not seeking God anymore, either. When we are so unfriendly seekers stop seeking the Creator of the universe, we must not only repent of this sin but we must also change behavior. We must embrace the beloved children God sends our way.
- Clear Information – People start to decide if you are friendly before they get to your sanctuary. Does your website have helpful information, like worship times and location? Do you have signs clearly posted to help people find Sunday school rooms, the fellowship hall, bathrooms, the sanctuary, etc.? If you do not, this is an important place to start.
- Trained Greeters – Volunteers who serve in these roles can be the first contact for guests. They need to be prepared to give a warm welcome and even engage in a brief conversation with people they do not know, in addition to handing out bulletins.
- Harness the Power of Extroverts – There are folks in your church who genuinely enjoy talking to new people. Ask them to serve your church. Place them in strategic locations, where guests typically sit, and ask them to strike up conversations. They can speak to guests before worship, during Pass the Peace, and after worship. They are free to talk about jobs, children, school, absolutely anything…
- Make a Plan – Have a plan in place that your leadership takes seriously concerning welcoming guests. This plan should include: (a) evaluating your web presence and signage, updating them as necessary and keeping them up-to-date (b) recruiting volunteers tasked with welcoming new guests, job descriptions for those volunteers, and defining expectations for what welcoming looks like in your context (c) train your volunteers and congregation to be mindful of welcoming new people (d) have mystery worshippers give you feedback or invite guests to give you feedback and (e) evaluate your welcoming plan at least once annually.
Not sure this is enough to get you started? Head over to the Lewis Center for Church Leadership and learn 50 ways to welcome guests! https://www.churchleadership.com/50-ways/50-ways-to-welcome-new-people/
….And hurry. Y’all are terrible at Friendly Church Bingo.
My name is Leia, which should tell you that my dad’s favorite movie is Star Wars and I have some very unfortunate nicknames. I studied International Relations in undergrad and couldn’t find a job to save my life, so I changed my plans and studied communications in graduate school. I served The United Methodist Church for 7 years in fundraising, discipleship, and communications. Currently, I am working as a consultant, but in November I will return to my work with The United Methodist Church.
As I sit and reflect upon the hateful and fearful actions that took place in Charlottesville this weekend I can’t help but be heartbroken. As more and more video surfaces littered with hate, racist slurs, and violence my heart breaks more for my brothers and sisters who live in fear because of the backward belief that one human life is more important or special than another human’s life. I have to hold back the urging of my privilege that says “You are geographically far away from this, it does not affect you.” That is a lie from the pit of hell. This does affect me. It affects my children. It affects my community. This affects you. Regardless of where you are in this country and across the world violence and hate affects us. I can no longer hide behind excuses of any kind. I can no longer hide behind the color of my skin, gender, religion, education, money, geography, and I will not continue to hide behind my silence.
Many have made statements on Facebook, produced videos, preached sermons from the pulpit and used whatever microphone they have to speak out against this evil. The statement that caught my attention was one I’m sure you have seen it by now. Jimmy Fallon made a statement yesterday and he talked about our responsibility as human beings to stand up against racism, hate, and evil. Not only did he encourage ALL of us to take a stand against it but he made a call to action of just that, action.
Silence is not an option, it has never been, and it never can be. When we are silent we take a giant step backward in history and humanity. People are being killed because of silence. Because of apathy and fear. Because we are scared that we might offend someone or lose a friend or actually have to have a real conversation with someone. I confess that I am guilty of silence. I CAN NOT LONGER REMAIN SILENT. YOU CAN NO LONGER REMAIN SILENT. No more. The church cannot remain silent due to apathy. White people, you cannot remain silent out of fear or whatever holds you back from saying something. Our brothers and sisters are out there dying and we are sitting back watching.
If silence is no longer an option where does that leave us? Do we speak up today and become silent again tomorrow? I pray we don’t. I pray that we continue to speak up against those who use hate, fear, and violence to belittle and degrade our fellow humans. In many instances using our voices will not be enough, with breaking silence we must act as well. Not using the same fear, hate, and violence that we are against, but the actions of love, compassion, and justice. Those are not just words. They cannot be rhetoric that we say from behind keyboards and pulpits, they must be actions that we model day in and day out as we break the silence. We break the silence by actually living into love, compassion, and justice. It means we act before asking questions of why or if it is deserved. We do not qualify our actions, that is exactly what leads us to silence. We act because we can’t help it, because love, compassion, and justice are what changes the world around us, not hate, fear, and racism. Those are actions of the selfish. Those are actions of evil. Those are the actions someone who is so deeply broken they need what we have to offer. Those people marching against and harming another human being because of their skin color, sexuality, gender, or any of the other garbage reasons people have prejudice, are the actions of someone who is deeply broken and hurt. Just as our brothers and sisters that are on the receiving end, these broken humans love, compassion, and justice too.
Stand up, speak out, and act against hate, fear, violence, and evil especially when it is most inconvenient for you because there will be a day when you are praying and hopeful someone with stand up, speak out, and act for you and with you.
Do no harm! Do good! Stay in love with God! Love your fellow human! Silence is NOT an option!
Zach Bechtold is the Co-Founder of Bearded Theologians and Pastor of Choteau, Brady, and Dutton United Methodist Churches in the Northern Plains of Montana.
On Mondays and Thursdays, I have to sit at a desk that is about half the size of a normal desk. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, since I am about half the size of a normal adult, but it is stacked with stuff that is not mine and already houses an oversized Mac that is not mine either (none of which I can move).
On these two days, I squeeze all of my work materials into a 10×34 inch space. Yep, I measured that sucker.
Adding insult to injury, it is right next to a giant copy machine and a shredder, both of which are used by people from multiple departments. In other words, I am squeezed into a super small space with people standing over me to make copies or leaning over me to shred paper most of the day. It is more than slightly awkward…and you thought you hated Mondays.
My workplace has one additional problem. It is incredibly loud. Oh, heavens the noise! I am a fundraising consultant for a private high school in Indianapolis and I have not been around teenagers regularly since I was one, so I was pretty shocked by the volume at the school. Students are everywhere. They are singing and laughing and talking e v e r y w h e r e.
My productivity level has taken a major hit in this environment. If you know me, you know this makes me crazy.
Jean sits parallel to me. The students love her. They come to see her every day. She is my neighbor and part of the reason our cramped, little neighborhood is filled with very loud children who could be in class.
I don’t remember hanging out with adults when I was in high school, at least not on campus. That would have been lame, possibly even reputation suicide. These students, however, feel incredibly comfortable with Jean; they seek her out for conversation.
She has been very intentional about building relationships with them. The fruit of her intentionality is complete honesty. This rare gift is something most teenagers reserve for their peers. Nevertheless, Jean is privy to conversations about parties, tattoos, and arguments with mom. I am privy to them, too, but only as a result of location.
Each day of school, she has the opportunity to witness to these students and impart wisdom. Every day, she chooses that opportunity no matter how loud or crazy the conversations become. I have had the privilege of listening to her counsel a young woman against getting a tattoo without her mom’s permission. I have also had the privilege of listening to her help a young man find someone who would baptize him. No conversation is off limits. They openly talk about #BlackLivesMatter, abortion, cheating on tests, refugees, student council, and more. When the students want to pray, she will pray with them. When they need someone to stop them from getting into a fight, they come to her.
She is not a teacher. She is not a counselor. She is an administrative assistant, who makes time for students who need words of wisdom. Every day, Jean takes a very average role and transforms it by inviting the divine into the conversations she has with these teenagers.
They talk to her about smashing the patriarchy one day and how sad they are their dads left another. Jean listens. She hears their struggles and concerns. There is no judgement in her tone as she responds, but her words always challenge these students to do what is right.
They pile up their backpacks around her desk and huddle in the floor just to have a few moments of her time. I know they do this, because she truly listens. Her ears have given legitimacy to the words flowing from her mouth.
Soon I will not be stepping over backpacks and students to get to my desk or overhearing the latest teenage drama. Summer is here and the school year is coming to a close. While I am certain my productivity will increase, I will not have a constant reminder that we can participate in ministry and kingdom building regardless of our professional titles.
I don’t know about you, but I need reminders like that. I need people like Jean who invite the divine into every day conversations, people who are willing to bring their callings into the secular and mundane.
Without these reminders, it is far too easy to forget we are called to do the same.
My name is Leia, which should tell you that my dad’s favorite movie is Star Wars and I have some very unfortunate nicknames. I studied International Relations in undergrad and couldn’t find a job to save my life, so I changed my plans and studied communications in graduate school. Now, I have served The United Methodist Church for nearly 7 years in fundraising, discipleship, and communications.