A friend just described two churches to me, and I didn’t expect what he told me.
One is a church planted about nine years ago, established and growing solidly – around 100 people on a Sunday.
The other is enormous, one of London’s largest, with an international congregation and reputation, and a leader you’ve probably heard of.
Which was the friendliest?
Yup, the big one. My friend suggested that precisely because it was so big, they had to throw time and resources into solving how people could join it, join in, and have meaningful relationships. They had to fight the result of their growth in order to keep on growing. Now, a church that size has staff with the discretionary time to address the problem, but the critical issue is that they were willing to do so in order to preserve the gospel value of fellowship.
And the smaller one? Of course it’s not small at all – in many parts of the UK having over 100 people at a service counts as way above average. But they were behaving small, as if it were obvious how to join in, who to say hello to and how to start a conversation.
The materials of the two churches were subtly different too – the larger church had intentionally used the free social media (free, notice) to make their church easy to find out about and to join. The smaller, newer church seems wary of the newer technologies, and so their website is out of date and hard to access. Whatever the reason, and maybe they had no one to keep it fresh and current, the end result is that the newly planted church has already become a little club, where those in the know already knew who and what needs knowing.
Larger churches need to work hard at their welcome, and especially to fight the way that their size prevents a genuine welcome and relationships. If people have a superficial welcome, or none, they will conclude that the church is relationally closed to them.
Smaller churches need to work hard at their welcome, and especially to fight the way that their size prevents a genuine welcome and relationships. If people have a superficial welcome, or none, they will conclude that the church is relationally closed to them.
What are the biblical bases for being welcoming and friendly?
When did you last have a training session with your welcomers to teach them that basis?
What is it like being new at your church? If you don’t know, ask a Christian friend to turn up one Sunday as a ‘mystery worshipper’ – if pressed they can always say they are visiting friends in the area, which is true. Afterwards, get a full debrief from them.