The first week that we were here, I sat around the condo, alone, going crazy, feeling deeply and utterly abandoned, unable to imagine what three weeks of this would be like. I realized very quickly that I am not the introvert I like to think I am. Too much silence and aloneness makes me feel like ripping out my eyeballs.
Then something happened.
Okay, this isn't technically our church. But it could be!
We went to church on Sunday. We were immediately greeted, warmly - not the way some people greet you like they're looking over your shoulder for someone more interesting. I was invited out to lunch by the women's director. We were introduced to others who had spent time in Seattle. We became known as the people who were only going to be here for three months.
This is balm to my very soul. I begin to think that though my time in Georgia might be only three months, it might be the best three months of my life.
How can the church be more welcoming? From my experience as one who has been served:
Care enough to ask questions and invite people to lunch. Maybe it won’t go anywhere, but the people who really need the fellowship will definitely take you up on it.
Care even when it’s temporary. We’ve been temporary at a number of churches in our many travels, but we have made long-term friends in many of those places, all because the church cared enough to minister to us even when we couldn’t become long-term tithing members. Recognize that even visitors to your church might be part of the church universal, and even if you never see them again, you will see them again. These are friendships that are worth pursuing.
Introduce people to others. Each Sunday that we've been here, someone has said, "You should meet so-and-so. Here, let me introduce you!" This has allowed us to connect far beyond the "gatekeepers", as it were--the people who pass out bulletins and whose job it is to greet.
Just care, really. All ministries fall flat if they are not surrounded by deep, genuine care.
And if you’re new and wanting to get involved:
Be honest about your needs. Buttonhole someone, tell them you want to get involved, and then take them up on their invitations.
Go to Sunday Schools, join Bible studies, participate in service opportunities. It’s hard for people to get to know you when they only see your face on Sunday mornings.
And pray, before you ever show up on Sunday, that God would use you in this congregation, that it would be a mutually beneficial relationship.
Have you ever been an outsider in a new church? What made you feel cared for?