I know, I know, that was a beer commercial but I think it illustrates a great point for churches to consider – how comfortable do new people, different people, people who are not exactly like you, FEEL when they come into your church???
Many of you know that I walked away from church for a 6 year period of my life. I was a bodyguard & head of security for some of the biggest rock n’ roll bands in the world. I rode motorcycles, had long hair & tattoos, & I remember vividly the looks I would get from those who I looked different from. I remember when I “gave church a try” with Gina, who would later become my wife, and the uneasiness I felt. Would this be like the uptight, holier than thou, legalistic church I had grown up in? Would these people accept me or would I be an outcast?
Most of the people coming through our doors have never been to church, or haven’t been in many years because of a bad experience or they never saw the relevance of church. And as they pull onto our parking lot they are experiencing a great deal of uneasiness. They are wondering – Am I dressed right? What will they people be like? Will I be accepted or looked down on? What is the music like? What is the pastor like? Will they ask me to drink the Kool-Aid? Many times I liken it to going to a party where you don’t know anyone. As uneasy as that is for all of us, it’s about 20 times worse for people walking into a church where they don’t know anyone.
Listen – it is OUR RESPONSIBILITY to put them at ease immediately. I tell people that our “Host Team” (greeters, parking, ushers, coffee servers, children’s check-in, etc) may be the most important ministry in our entire church. Studies tell us that the average visitor to a church will make up their mind within in the 1st 8 minutes as to whether they are ever coming back to that church again. Did you catch that??? EIGHT STINKIN’ MINUTES!!! 8 minutes is about the time it takes for them to park, walk in the building, check-in their kids, grab a cup of coffee, & MAYBE have heard the 1st song! Think about that!
We are in a community where 90% of the people within a 5 mile radius of our church do not go to church regularly. We work our tails off to try to reach out to them & to get them to “give church a try”, & when they come they are feeling that uneasiness & they are looking for an excuse to say “AH HA! THAT’S why I don’t go to church!“
So, in addition to having a kick butt Host Team, I tell everyone who comes to Eagle Pointe that WE ARE ALL, every single one of us, is on Host Team EVERY weekend! It is up to us to make sure that everyone, no matter who they are or what they look like, feels loved, welcomed, accepted, & appreciated from the moment they pull onto our parking lot until they the moment they leave.
Because if we blow that first 8 minutes, if we don’t make a great first impression, then we will have just wasted that God-given opportunity to impact that person & their family for Jesus Christ! And that is completely unacceptable to me!
Remember: Jesus came to invite the outsider – not coddle the insider!
So, how welcome do people feel in your church?