This week on the podcast we talked about hospitality. We talked about how we can make sure that people feel welcome when they enter church, literally and figuratively. We’ve got a very special guest next week to dig into this even further but this week we wanted to outline some very actionable ideas of how we can change the first impression that we make as a Church.
Open The Doors
We mean this literally. Imagine that you approach a huge, imposing building where you know something happens but you don’t know what it is or how it works. Opening those heavy, ornate doors for the first time can be hard on the heart.
But we can change that.
Weather permitting, even if it’s a little cold, having someone physically outside the doors to welcome people is always a great idea. Sometimes this can be the priest (and there are priests that wouldn’t miss it for the world) and sometimes it can be part of a welcoming ministry. Having the right people “manning the gates” is vital. Sometimes when we enter the church for the first time, the faces we see are not filled with smiles. They’re not warm. That can’t be the way we welcome people.
What’s Happening Now?
The celebration of the Eucharist is not something to be taken lightly. However for someone who’s never attended a Catholic Mass or maybe even a church service before, can you imagine what that feels like for them? Can you imagine what it must feel like to have absolutely no idea what’s happening?
Some priests acknowledge this. They make their opening remarks ones that welcome and explain. They make sure that people understand what’s happening even if they may not understand all of the moving parts.
What about ensuring that people not in full communion understand that they can still receive the blessing of God? What about communicating the why behind what we’re doing? Now sometimes this might mean explaining things in a little more depth than the “average” parishioner but sometimes it might mean slowing down. Sometimes this might mean not rushing through every ritual. Sometimes this might mean speaking clearly and passionately, from the depth of your soul.
Where Everybody Knows Your Name
We will never be a part of a community when we don’t know each other’s names. There are so many ways to make this happen.
Some churches use name tags once a month. Some churches ask that during the sharing of the peace of Christ, we introduce ourselves. These are good starts. They’re tools that can help make it happen.
But if you only ever share the peace of Christ with the people that sit right beside you and the same people sit beside you every single week, I would hope that you know at least their name by now.
So how do we fix the underlying problem? How do we make Church a place where everybody knows your name?
We start with ourselves. As a priest or as a lay leader, make sure that you introduce yourself to people. Make sure that you ask people their name (at least once) and make sure that you remember their name (eventually).
If you’re a parishioner, during “nametag Sunday” or “introduce yourself Sunday”, sit somewhere that you don’t normally sit. Church is not about making sure that the pew you patronize is perfectly seated to your posterior. Let’s move around some.
These are just some of the ways (and there are many more) that you can change the way people feel when they come into our parishes.
What are you doing (yes… we’re actually asking) to change the way that your church welcomes new faces?