My husband and I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1980. I was not excited at all about the move. I was leaving my friends behind and being forced to make new ones. I was so very shy then, and I missed my Church friends back home.
I still remember the very first time our family attended the Cincinnati North congregation. We gathered up our then three small children and walked in, not knowing what to expect. Here came the friendliest smiling face I ever saw! He held out his hand to greet us at the door. It was Ed Smith. He not only spoke to my husband and me, but he also spoke to our children.
He made us feel welcomed, and what was more impressive, he knew all our names the next Sabbath! We were important enough to him that he remembered our names. Each and every week he would come up to talk to us and see how we were doing. Because he took the time to care, it helped ease us into a new environment.
The first impression that a new member can have of your congregation is critical! It could even determine whether he or she will return the next week or not. Some are just checking things out to see if they would like to come to your congregation or not.
What kind of impression does your congregation give? One of warmth that makes a person want to come back or of coldness and distance? You can have greeters at the door, but is it only the greeters' responsibility to do the greeting? Is that enough?
Here are some suggestions that will help the newcomer want to come back week after week.
1. Make sure you look for new faces. Go up to them and make them feel welcomed.
2. Invite them along for your get-together after church.
3. Don't stop with just the first week; continue week after week going up and saying hello. Remember, they are new and they have no friends there. Become a friend.
4. Take them around to meet other people.
5. Make it a personal responsibility to help them fit in. Tell them of all the available activities going on for them and their children in the Church.
6. Take photos if they do not object and place them in the church bulletin welcoming them to the congregation. Write up a little bio about them for the bulletin. Include things like where they work, their children's names, hobbies and so on.
7. Place yourself in their shoes and understand what it is like to attend and to not know anyone.
8. Make it a point to remember that person's name. I must admit I am terrible with names, but making the extra effort with new people will make them feel special. Write their name down and think about it during the week.
9. Pray for the new people.
I will always remember the first person who took the time to make me feel welcome and ease my fear. Let's all take the time to care and make those attending for the very first time feel a part of our Church family.