Q&A: How Can My Church Get Friendlier?
The question I continually hear is that churches are NOT friendly and welcoming. How can we change that?
[from the 2020 Blog Survey]
Let me start with a little pushback: I’ve yet to visit a church anywhere on the planet that is devoid of all friendliness and welcoming. Drop in on any worship gathering in any corner of the globe, and you’ll see someone smiling, talking, laughing, catching up on the news of the week, etc.
But the spirit of the question is clear: many times a church person’s version of friendly translates to “friendly to those whom I already know.” There is a big difference between being friendly to friends and being intentional with strangers.
So how can we change that? I think there are at least five things to consider:
1. Agree that there is a problem.
Before we can move towards a solution, we have to be on the same page that a problem exists. Note that I am not saying we have to agree on exactly what the problem is. That will be a larger conversation for a later time.
If your church is not growing year after year…if guests come once but never return…if people say they don’t feel welcomed, loved, known, cared for…if people pick up vibes of a clique, an inside crowd, a barrier than can’t be surpassed…then all of those things are indicative of a problem of some sort.
Agree that there’s a problem. Then commit to discovering what it is.
2. Recruit allies.
Find like-minded people to get in your corner. Not in an “us vs. them” mentality, but for the sake of committing to prayer, developing good tactics, engaging people with vision, reading good resources, and spreading these new ideas into circles you may not have access to.
3. Don’t shame others because they don’t know what they don’t know.
Maybe most of your congregation can identify there’s a problem (see point 1), but they can’t quite put their finger on what it is. Don’t shame, scorn, or shun those who aren’t quite where you are yet. Remember that you are standing on the shoulders of others, whether they “get it” in terms of guest services or not. Don’t drive out the old in an attempt to bring in the new.
4. Beware the aura of friendliness using non-friendly means.
Many times, churches will resort to desperate measures to turn the ship around. Be careful how you speak to guests. Pay attention to the times when you shouldn’t speak to guests. And by all means, don’t turn your service into a time to put your guests on the spot…it’ll backfire.
5. Utilize undercover guests.
As you are making changes, it’s good to stop and take stock of how you’re doing. Invite a friend that’s known to you but unknown by your congregation. Ask them to go incognito, and then treat them to lunch while they regale you with tales of their experience.
photo credit: Peter Van Dyck