The heat has come. Not one of my favorite things about summer, but it is good for swimming and for being grateful that we live in an age of fans and AC. I hope everything has been going well with all of you. Last week was hectic at work, due to all the tourists in town for Independence Day. How did you all spend your holiday?
Before summer’s end, I’m hoping to be able to visit the new church we’re thinking of switching over too. Due to our coming move, we left our last church and we’ll be trying this one out. That’s why today’s topic is very closely related.
The “New Person”
Yep. I think we’ve all been there at least once, unless you have been fortunate enough to stick to one church your whole life. No one likes being the “new person”. It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward, as I’m sure you’ve experienced for yourself. It’s not a fun place to be and you’re out of your element.
However, you’re hoping that people will be friendly, interested, and kind. You want to feel like you could actually call this place your church family. A place where you can worship the Lord, serve, learn, and make friendships with fellow Christians. That’s the ideal place, a church where you truly feel connected. However, that might seem a little too much to ask for, right? Maybe one or two of those would be enough, but all of the above? Really? “Hope, you’re being a bit naive here!” You might snort.
Contrasts in Receptions
Before I go ahead here, I’d like to make it clear that my intention is not to point fingers, but to share some experiences I’ve had with new churches. My family and I have visited multiple churches and we’ve been the “new family” a lot. A common reception has been friendliness, but disinterest. There have been many people who have been kind and friendly, but didn’t show much interest in us.
Among my own peers, I often wasn’t talked too, nor did anyone begin conversation with me. Many of them already had a friend or group to converse with. Additionally, the youth leaders didn’t seem to take much of an interest in me either. I’m pretty certain no one was trying to be rude or unwelcoming, but these sort of things mattered when it came down to our decision on whether to stay or to continue searching.
Now, when we found our last church, it was still awkward since we were new, but there was a key difference. Once again, we were the “new family” and I was the “new person” in the youth group. But what changed how I felt about this church, was the interest that people took in me. There was a particular youth pastor who made a lasting impression by demonstrating an interest in who I was, noticed when I was absent, and was curious about who my parents and siblings were. He was not only friendly, but he made me feel welcome. That has always stood out to me, and I know that he didn’t have to put in the effort, but he did, and that’s why it’s made such a lasting impression.
The Imperfect, but Welcoming Church
The Church isn’t perfect, and I don’t expect it to be. I’m not going to say that I’ve got it all together either. However, I feel that we can forget what it is like to be the “new person”. To be the person who doesn’t really know anyone, wants to be cared about, and seeks to find a church they can really be a part of. I think we can forget that we need to be more than just friendly. Friendliness doesn’t count for much if a person doesn’t feel like anyone has even a remote interest in them.
I believe that we need to make the effort. The effort of welcoming our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to our churches. I also believe that we should run that extra mile to help others feel like they can call our church their church too. Our actions could make all the difference for someone.
There are a lot of important instructions that we need to obey, truths to remember, and callings. However, we shouldn’t forget some of the basic things that we should do. Jesus calls us to do many things, and one of those things is to give hospitality to others (Romans 15:7, Romans 12:13). We are called to be kind (Colossians 3:12), and also to treat others with love (1 John 4:7, 1 Corinthians 16:4). Hospitality may not be the most profound thing we may offer, but it is still important.
On one final note, at a co-op I used to go to, the director used to say something when we were going to receive new families. They are word that have stuck with me, and make me think it is great reminder for us all. What she would tell us, was this: remember that we were once that new person.
So, what are your thoughts? Do you think this is important? Have you ever felt unwelcome? Have you ever been the “new person”, and has anyone ever run the “extra mile” to make you feel welcome? What’s made the difference for you? Also, have you shown others hospitality? How involved have you been in being friendly and demonstrating interest? Have you ever experienced the fruit of your efforts?