Can I just say that I equal parts excited and nervous?
This will be our first Christmas season together. I can’t wait to celebrate the occasion with you, yet I have no idea what it will be like. That’s not to say that there won’t be planning, and discussions involved, but experiencing what Blue Mound UMC does during the Christmas season will be a learning experience for me. I am guessing some of our new members may be eager to experience this season with us for the first time as well. This is a season where our traditions and habits seem to set the schedule.
Word is spreading about what good things God is doing here at Blue Mound and we will have at least some first-time guests. We have taken advantage of $400 worth of Christmas advertising that the UMC has supplied, and there are 500 postcards being sent out this week inviting persons from our zip code to come to Blue Mound this Christmas. This plus our family and friends that I am sure we are all inviting to come to church gives us a unique opportunity to make first impressions. How will we treat our guests at church this holiday season? Will they feel at home? Will they feel welcome? Will they understand what we are doing when we do that thing we always do every year? Will people feel the love and grace of Jesus Christ when they come through our doors? The answers to these questions I cannot myself provide, but instead, the answers to these questions will come through you, and they will impact our guest’s decision to come back a second, third, or 30th time.
Here are some things to remember when we see a face we don’t recognize this month:
Less is more when greeting – try “Hi, my name is _____ I am glad you are here this morning” and offer them a handshake, or if they are children offer them a high 5. They will often provide their name in return, and I would love it if we would call people by their name.
Guide instead of Direct – If they have small children walk them to the nursery and introduce them to Taylor or older children introduce them to Gayla. Always remind them that Children are welcome in the sanctuary to sit with their family as well. If there is time, walk them to our hospitality area for coffee or a snack. If its time for worship to start to invite them to sit with you.
Invite! Invite! Invite! – Invite people to come to church. Invite people to sit with you. Invite someone to lunch as your guest (you pay). Most importantly, if they are a first-time guest at worship, inviting them to come again to worship is the most important thing.
Try to avoid providing too much information or introducing too many people, this can overwhelm a guest and make it less likely for them to form a personal connection with you, which is what will get them to come back. Also, avoid comments about how long it has been since you have seen a person, or jokes about lighting or fire because of their presence, even if it was a close friend of yours, this can make the guest feel guilty, shamed, or disconnected… even if they are not the one you are directing the comment at. Again, no matter how long or short it’s been, “I am glad you are here” is always a good thing to greet someone with.
For the guest visiting a church is almost like being on a first date, there are nerves, there is a plan for escape if things go badly, and things must go better than average for the relationship to get to the second date.
Be cool, be confident, be yourself. If you do, then our guests will fall in love with our church and with Jesus, the way that I and my family have.
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jacob Fields
P.S. My family and I would like to invite everyone to come to a Pastor’s open house on Sunday, December 10th
More details will come as the date approaches.