Welcoming Our Neighbors

Welcoming Our Neighbors

As we look forward to resuming many of our regular activities in our church life together, and in our communities, it is also a time of new opportunities to be a place of welcome for friends old and new alike. One such opportunity is that our church is opening its doors to the Boston Grace Korean Presbyterian Church, and providing space for them to hold worship services during the month of September.

Pastor Shi-Chang Wooh approached me earlier in the summer about looking for a new place for his congregation to worship, as the church where they were meeting in Lexington had grown and needed to expand its own use of the church building. After an initial conversation with the session, we have agreed to shared use of the church for the month of September, and possibly for a longer-term basis. The Korean Church will worship on Sunday afternoons at 2:00, and hold a Wednesday evening Bible study and Friday evening prayer meeting.

Many of the people who come to the Korean Church are here as students, doctors, or other professionals who are in one- to two-year training programs from Korea. The church has grown in the last three years from 12 adults and one child, to about 45 adults and 30 children! Please make our new friends feel welcome and share your hospitality with them, should you be in the building when they are here!

Looking forward to Sunday, October 1st, World Communion Sunday, I have invited their congregation to join us for worship at 10:30 to celebrate communion together. Friends of mine, Kurt Esslinger-Lee and Hyeyoung Lee, who are mission co-workers in South Korea serving as the site coordinators for the Young Adult Volunteer program in Daejon, will be leading us in worship that day and it seemed an ideal way to bring our two communities together. Please join me in welcoming our siblings in Christ to the Presbyterian Church of Burlington!

Peace,
Pastor Trina

Creating a Culture of Hospitality

What makes you feel welcome when you visit a place for the first time? What makes you want to come back again? Think about going to a store, a restaurant, a hotel…what are some of the hallmarks of a place that will keep you coming back? A friendly, warm greeting; attentiveness to your needs without being too pushy; clear directions and signage so you could find what you needed; a clean and hospitable environment – all these things would likely make your top ten list of places to which you would want to return.

Church Leadership Consultant Thom Ranier has worked with hundreds of churches in his career and provides great insight on how to create a welcoming culture for new visitors and guests to the church. Below are fourteen things that help make a church feel welcoming. Ranier says that Genuinely Friendly Churches (GFCs) have at least eleven of the fourteen items present in their church culture:

1. They are intentional about being friendly. Warmth and friendliness are clear values of theses churches. They are articulated regularly. All organizations, including churches, naturally drift toward an inward focus unless they are otherwise intentional.

2. The leaders model warmth, humility, and friendliness. The friendliness is not contrived or phony. These leaders have prayerfully become genuinely friendly men and women.

3. The leaders are clear that genuine friendliness is more than a brief stand and greet time in a worship service. The efficacy of a stand and greet time was debated extensively on this blog. Regardless of a church’s decision in this practice, leaders in GFCs were adamant that true hospitality and friendliness extends beyond a two-minute welcome time.

4. GFCs utilize a secret guest at least twice a year. One small church of which I am aware budgets $100 a year for a secret guest. They pay the guest with a $50 gift card to come to the church and provide feedback on their experience. I call this process “looking in the mirror” because it gives the church a real opportunity to see itself as others do.

5. GFCs had a guest friendly web site. The web site typically set the tone for a guest. If it did not have obvious information for a guest, such as worship times and addresses, the guest came to the church with a more negative disposition.

6. The church has clear signage. Far too many churches lack this signage. They assume that everyone knows where everything is. First-time guests know nothing about the church or its different facilities.

7. GFCs have a well-organized greeters’ ministry. They have greeters in the parking lot, greeters in the entrances, and greeters in other strategic locations inside. Many GFCs utilize newer members in this ministry.

8. These churches have clear information places. It may be something as simple as a well-marked table manned by a member of the church. The signage points clearly to the information table, booth, or kiosk.
GFCs have clean and neat buildings. It is amazing how much a clean facility adds to the positive mood of a guest. It is equally amazing how few churches pay attention to this issue.

9. They have a guest feedback process. To the best of their ability, GFCs follow up with guests to get feedback on their experiences. They also encourage the guests to be open and frank in the feedback.
The children’s area is clearly safe and sanitary. Don’t expect young parents to return if the church does not give clear attention to this matter.

10. The majority of church members in GFCs are involved in the community. They thus exude genuine friendliness in the worship services because they are regularly connecting with non-church members other days of the week.

11. Small groups are highly intentional about reaching people beyond their own groups. Thus when these group members are in a worship service, they are already accustomed to reaching out beyond those with whom they already have relationships.

12. GFCs have new member classes that emphasize the responsibilities and expectations of church members. Members are thus more apt to look beyond their own preferences to serve others. That attitude shows up in the worship services.

Imagine that you were coming to Burlington Presbyterian Church for the first time this Sunday. How many of the following things would you experience? Where do you see room for improvement? I welcome your comments and feedback. Let’s build up a culture of hospitality in order that we may welcome others in a genuine and intentional way, as a church family.

Peace, Pastor Trina

Christ goes in the guise of a stranger

Hospitality Basics

A Celtic Rune of Hospitality

We saw a stranger yesterday,
We put food in the eating place,
Drink in the drinking place,
Music in the listening place,
And, with the sacred name of the triune God,

He blessed us and our house,
Our cattle and our dear ones,
As the lark says in her song:
Often, often, often, goes Christ in the
stranger’s guise.

Are we ready for guests?

Every church wants to be known as a friendly church, of course. But the reality goes much deeper. To extend a true welcome, the hospitality of Christ, is to do all that is possible to make a place for every one who comes seeking a spiritual home.

The new season will bring guests our way. Let’s be sure we’re prepared with the basics:

  • A church that looks fresh and cleaned as though prepared for company
  • Greeters at the door—always
  • The front entryway as “the welcome zone” on Sunday mornings (the job of any member there is to say hello to everyone who comes in the door—other discussions should take place around the corner in the hallway)
  • Every member feeling equipped to introduce themselves to visitors and offer to give directions, answer questions, and invite to coffee hour
  • To give us a chance to brush up on our basics, the Hospitality Committee is planning for sometime in early fall to provide all worshipers with our “Guidelines” piece on being a welcoming church.

    The committee will also be reviewing the use of the sample church “business cards” provided in the spring so that members may have a resource to hand any acquaintance as part of an invitation to our church.

    “As you have done it to the least of these my brothers and sisters you have done it to me.”

    Enjoy these golden days of late summer!

    Peace,

    Rod