Because I was always the new kid at school I know how important it is to feel loved and accepted by the "home crowd". It's hard to be in a new environment surrounded by unfamiliar faces, especially when those faces are laughing and talking with...well, other unfamiliar (to you) faces. It's a lonely feeling.
Ten years ago, I substituted for different para-pros in our school district. I was not properly trained by anybody in leadership so it was very hard going into the different schools not knowing where to go or who to talk to.
Nobody showed me to the classroom I was to be in, "Just go down the hall, around the corner, look for....".
Nobody told me where the bathrooms were for staff. Nobody showed me where the lunchroom was. (One day I sat outside, other times I ate in the classroom.) Nobody introduced themselves to me, except the teacher I was working for. It was such an uncomfortable experience at every building I subbed in, that by the end of school year I was turning down jobs.
How much better my experience would've been if someone had taken the time to introduce themselves and give me a few pointers for the day. Instead I felt awkward and alone.
For thirty years I attended a large church in my community. Years ago one of our pastors disguised himself and showed up as a visitor to see how we did at greeting new people. For the most part we "passed". But our senior pastor had always encouraged us to welcome the new people around us and each week we applauded the visitors to show our love and appreciation for them being there. We were trained well.
We also started meeting visitors in our coffee shop after service so they could talk with a pastor and feel welcomed and connected as they learned what our church had to offer.
In April 2012, my husband and I decided to visit the church of a friend of ours. From the moment we walked in the door we were greeted and shown the way to the sanctuary. People introduced themselves to us, loved us and made us feel welcome. We immediately knew this church was our new home, and we've been there ever since.
One week our son visited with us and noticed that we didn't clap to welcome new visitors during service, and at his suggestion we now applaud new people. I always go out of my way to shake a hand and introduce myself, even if it's during service. I want people to know they are noticed, welcome, loved and valued.
And it's so important to make new people feel loved and valued. That is showing them Jesus, and that is why they are checking out your church - they want to know if you love like Jesus loves and if you find worth in who they are. They want a place to belong.
Don't wait for the pastor to officially welcome them from the pulpit. If you see a new face, go meet them, show them around your facilities, have a cup of coffee with them and help them to feel connected, because you want them to become a familiar face that you can laugh and talk with! This will bless your pastor more than you know!
Read my next post: Don't Just Sit There, Do Something