As a pastor, no one was more on my Sunday morning radar than people I hadn’t met before. I wanted to connect with every guest, and I tried to prepare my regular attenders for that priority. We managed our congregation in three services, and that kept the crowd for each under 500 so I could stand on the front sidewalk and speak to every individual as they departed, especially our guests. My hope was to add to the welcome my people had already extended and model for everyone the importance of friendliness to our guests.
But not every setting afford that opportunity to the pastor. For some, the crowd is just too large or ministry responsibilities (altar, etc.) too great for the pastor to meet all the guests. But, if you’re going to assimilate people into your congregation, they will need to meet the pastor as soon as possible–preferably no later than their second visit.
Now, some will balk at that and have very good reasons why that’s not possible–and I won’t argue with your situation. But, understand that people have a genuine desire to connect with the one who has been speaking into their lives, to see that he/she is genuinely interested in their growth, and to cement a connection they’ve allowed to start in their lives. As someone once said, “People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Well, they’ve already heard some of what you know so they need some input into that other part.
Some will say, my church is so big that meeting guests isn’t feasible. But I see many of the largest church pastors in America organizing post-service coffee moments or special invitations to meet next Sunday. These leaders are as focused on new friends as I was in my not-so mega-church. They know that people need a personal touch before they will let your words (God’s words by the way) change their lives.
So hoe do your guests meet the pastor? Who takes the initiative to introduce them? I’m a big fan of newcomer events (our subject next week), but if that’s the only available option, then the guest has to want to initiate that encounter. He has to sign up and show up. Honestly, the guests I want to meet most are the ones who aren’t sure how they feel about us and our church. I want to connect and, hopefully, turn their “maybe” into a “yes.” Usually, the “maybe” people don’t stay for coffee or come to next week’s event.
So…here’s where you can help! When you meet new friends at church, think about how you might introduce them to your pastor. If you’re in a large church, maybe start with a staff member, but take the initiative. If there’s a system for such a meeting (post-service coffee, etc.), go with them. Make your welcome complete by introducing them to others and ultimately to your pastor.
Treat every guest as if Jesus invited them. He probably did 🙂 And make sure your pastor gets a chance to meet every one of Jesus’ friends this Sunday!