God is bringing lots of visitors through our doors at the moment. It’s very exciting. Newcomers to London are trying to work out where to put down their roots. They’re looking for a spiritual home. It’s worth asking ‘how should we treat them?’ The Briefing has got something on this in its’ latest issue. But I haven’t got round to reading it yet. I’ll get round to it and then may have to post a lengthy retraction of what’s here!
So I want to think about welcoming newcomers. But I want to change the word. I want to think about incorporating newcomers. If I’ve understood the word correctly, it means literally ‘uniting to a body’. That seems to me to summarise precisely what we’re hoping to provide for newcomers; a way to join Christ’s body, the church.
So how do we go about it?
This is not supposed to be a welcoming by numbers checklist. We’re not after a robotic adherence to a rigid protocol. But when you think about being a newcomer from their perspective it seems to make sense to cover the following bases. This may well be old hat for most of us. But it won’t harm us to be reminded!
I’ve got five points and they all begin with i!
1. initiate contact yourself
Generally speaking newcomers want someone to come up and welcome them to church. They don’t know anyone. And the onus is on us to make the running. So be the one who makes the first move. Don’t leave people sitting alone in a row, go and sit next to them. Don’t leave them standing at the back reading our second rate promotional material, go and introduce yourself. Don’t let them leave without at least having spoken to someone, go and ask them whether they’re visiting and how you can be of help.
2. introduce them to others
Generally speaking newcomers want to find out what sort of people are part of this church. So give them a flavour of who’s here by helping them to meet others. Don’t keep them all to yourselves. That’ll give them a hugely distorted impression. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on what type of person you are! But if you keep them all to yourself, it might look like you’re hitting on them! Take them up to a group of people you know and say something like, ‘guys can I introduce Mark, he’s a graphic designer who’s just moved to Tooting and he was recommended to come here by a friend’. That’ll work a treat unless his name isn’t Mark and he’s not a graphic deisgner. But you get the picture.
3. inform them about church
Generally speaking newcomers want to find out what kind of church it is, what it does, why it does it and how it does it. So let them know what happens here. Say what you most appreciate about being here. If it’s the music and praise, if it’s the Bible teaching, the evangelistic priorities or the informal vibe and personal relationships then say so. If you can’t think of anything to be positive about, make it up!
4. invite them to join a small group
Generally speaking newcomers want support and encouragement to help them live for Christ. So talk about the small group programme. This is the place where we can pursue the prayerful application of the scriptures, in an informal environment with people with whom they’ll increasingly feel at ease. Give them a flavour of your experience of small groups and say how it’s benefited you.
5. involve them in community life
Generally speaking newcomers want to be a part of a group pf people that live the Christian life together. So involve them in whatever’s going on. Let them know about the facebook group so that they can know about the latest party. Invite them to the social events that are taking place, offer to pick them up or meet them beforehand. I’m not talking about holding their hand. But make a judgement call. Ask yourself what you can do to help them get involved in the relationships that churches have to offer.
I may, of course, have got it all wrong. It’s a while since I was a newcomer at church. So failing everything why not ask them what you can do to help them!