One of our church planters forwarded me this email last week. I share it both with his and the original author’s permission. I’ve changed her name and the name of our church plant for privacy reasons.
I just wanted to take a moment to say how thankful I am that I found Grace Church. It was one of the most welcoming churches I have ever been to. The night I sent the email asking about college programs, I never thought I would find one that would save my life. Saturday night I was having some serious thoughts about suicide. I woke up the next morning and wrote a note and planned on ending my life a few hours later.
However, I heard a voice tell me I should attend church. I opened my email and read all about Grace Church. However, I just planned on postponing my plans until after church. I drove to church nervous about the whole thing. As soon as I got to the building I was welcomed by Laura and others in the blue shirts. Laura introduced herself to me and asked me to sit with her during worship. She introduced me to some college students and invited me to lunch with her and some other people. I hesitated to say yes.
Then service started and I just thought to myself of how much of a God moment it was that I found this church. I have struggled with belonging my whole life. That was one of the main things that lead me to think of suicide. I knew that God loved me and that if I ended my life I would not have to worry about having these feelings anymore. Walking into a church and just feeling like I belonged there was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced. I decided that I should go to lunch.
Before lunch, I called the counselor I had been seeing back home and told her about my thoughts and how close I was to committing suicide. She called my parents and shared the thoughts I was having and I ended up having to come home after I had lunch with Laura and a whole bunch of other people.
I just wanted to say thank you for emailing me back right away to my questions and encouraging me to come to church Sunday. I am so glad I felt God’s voice telling me to come to Grace Church. I am afraid if didn’t hear that message, I would have made the worst decision. I have since gotten help, and come home for the semester, but I am planning on coming back to college in the spring, and coming back to Grace Church.
So many times in guest services, we weigh what’s at stake based on experience: “How does this make our guest feel?” “Is this something our guest can use?” “Will this make sense to the guest?”
And while there’s a certain nobility in asking those questions, there are times that our hospitality (or lack thereof) goes beyond a simple experience.
Am I overdramatizing Stephanie’s letter? Is it reasonable to say that God used a quality first impressions team and an intuitive greeter named Laura saved a life that day?
On the other hand, is it reasonable to say that God didn’t use that team and that greeter for that exact purpose?
This weekend, people are showing up at your church with lots of stuff happening behind their facade. Will your team and your greeters be ready to engage them with the love of Jesus and the grace of the gospel?