Sharing Easter With Strangers?
No matter the denomination, now matter the location, churches are generally filled to capacity during two special occasions: Christmas and Easter. Even those who do not regularly worship feel compelled to observe these holy services. In fact, churches in Katy prepare ahead of time for overflowing attendance.
This year, Christians will gather on March 31 to share the resurrection story of Easter. How life-changing is the realization that Jesus paid a great price to cleanse us. We are set free from bondage… set free to minister and reach out to others. This is the Great Commission—something we can do from our home churches… something we can do on Easter Sunday.
An Easter Impression
We are “Easter ambassadors” for Christ, the “first impression” —visitors to our churches either feel welcomed or awkward. After all, they are the strangers in our midst, often disoriented and a bit lost in a new surrounding, especially on Easter when the crowds are dense. Our mission is to make visitors feel like family. Sometimes this is easier said than done.
Recently Pastor Tim Douglas of Creekside Community Church shared an article that can help us reach out effectively on Easter Sunday and year-round. It’s a mini-primer on church hospitality, quite helpful as we minister to others:
It’s Always Someone’s First Sunday at Your Church
“How a first time visitor experiences your kids area, worship, sermon—even the parking lot—can determine a lot about if they come back.
Our church recently moved into a new facility. On our first Sunday, it was everyone’s first time at the new place, and so our church got to experience again what a first time guest feels. I was reminded of an important truth that is easily forgotten the longer you attend one church or are in one building:
It’s always someone’s first Sunday at your church. While we see guests each week at church, it is easy to forget this truth and the ramifications of it. They can feel lost and confused. They drive onto a church campus, they aren’t sure where to park, which door to walk into, where to drop their kids off or where the restrooms are.
But their first experience could have an enormous impact on their life. Based on their experience parking or in the kids area, they may decide to be more open to your sermon. If they feel good about how their kids are feeling, then they might feel good. Based on the worship experience, they may decide to come back next week.
A simple thing to do is be clear. Post signs to the front door, parking, kids rooms and bathrooms. Make it obvious. A mentor once told me, if you think you have enough signs, add some. Remember, new people don’t know where to go. It can feel embarrassing, much like asking someone where their bathroom is the first time you are in their house.
Having signs also communicates to a guest, “We’ve been expecting you. Because we’ve been expecting you, we know what you are going to be feeling when you get here and we want to help you.”
Give them a head’s up
When they sit down, they are unsure what is going to happen. Some guests who walk in for the first time have never been to church, or a church like yours. They don’t know what to do, when to stand, how long it will last, when things happen. Where else do you stand and sing with a group of people songs you don’t know?
To alleviate this, simply explain at different points of your service what you are doing. Tell them how long they can expect to be there, if you say 75 minutes, it better be 75 minutes. Tell them why you sing songs that you believe to be true about Jesus, why you are doing Communion and how you do it. If you dip bread into the cup, tell them or else someone will come up and drink out of the cup.
Walk it out, talk ’em up
Lastly, create a culture of walking around. This can be hard in churches, but it starts with the leaders.
When most people show up at their church, they want to see their friends. They don’t often think about talking to new people. To get regulars to talk to guests, the leaders must do this. At our church, you can spot the guests because five minutes before the service starts, they are the only ones sitting in the sanctuary while everyone else is mingling. Our leaders take the time to walk through the rows, say Hi! and chat them up. One of my favorite things to read on a guest feedback card is, “People talked to me.”
Remember, this Sunday, it will be someone’s first time at your church. After that, who knows? They might find themselves in a small group or missional community, taking steps in their spiritual journey and one day finding themselves following Jesus—all because God used your intentionality in welcoming a first-time guest.”
Following are scriptures on hospitality. We at Katy Christian Magazine hope these Bible verses inspire us all to minister to others at Easter and at every worship service.
• Acts 28:2—The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold.
• Romans 12:13—Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
• Hebrews 13:2—Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
• 1 Peter 4:9-10—Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.
• 3 John 1:5-8—Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers and sisters, even though they are strangers to you.