How Welcoming Is Your Church?
For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:Matthew 25:35
Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.Hebrews 13:2
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.Leviticus 19:34
We can search the scriptures, and it doesn’t take long to see that the stranger and how we treat him/her is very important to God. There seem to be no caveats or limitations in mind when it comes to the demeanor of hospitality and welcoming demeanor we are to show them, and it ought to flow out of a consciousness of the similar state God took us from to be a part of His body.
So let’s just go on a little thought experiment as we perform some triage on our own hearts and the state of our own church when it comes to our heart attitude toward strangers.
What are you doing to make sure that the poor in your neighborhood are lavishly welcome in your worship services, and in your church community throughout the week?
What are you doing to make sure that the rich are equally welcome?
How do you ensure that any visitor that walks through your church door feels that they are welcome?
Do the faces your pastor looks at on Sunday mornings represent well the demographics of the surrounding community? If it doesn’t, that doesn’t guarantee that the church is disproportionate in its welcoming demeanor to the community, but it MAY be, and if that is true, some soul searching and repentance may be in order.
How are the people of your community who are not looking for a church finding out that they are welcome at your church?
How are people who are looking for a church finding you?
Welcoming people to your church is SO much more than being visible in Google search results. But if you are not sure what to do to help people who are looking for a church find you, you are missing out on some of the lowest hanging fruit of local outreach. My goal in this blog is not to help you on the whole scope of how to make people of all stripes find your church. What I can help you with is only one piece of what ought to be a much larger conversation at your church. How do you make everyone feel welcome? I don’t know what that looks like for your church. What I do know is how to help those who already want to find you to find you.
At some point in the process between someone deciding to go to a new church and sitting down in the pew, Google will be used by that person.
The vast majority of Americans – 95% – now own a cellphone of some kind. The share of Americans that own smartphones
Riley Panko of The Manifest says that “over three-fourths (77%) of smartphone owners regularly use navigation apps. Google Maps (67%) is the most popular navigation app by a wide margin. It is the preferred navigation app for nearly 6x more people compared to the second-most popular app Waze (12%).”
Already I have used facts that relate to how people find a church that will be antiquated in five years or less. This is the world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As soon as you think you’ve mastered it, Google makes some search algorithm change that flips what you thought you knew on its head. So why should a church exhaust itself finding and jumping through Google’s hoops?
I can give you four significant answers to this question. One, because in spite of the challenge of SEO, it is still one of the best ways to welcome visitors where they are, at the moment they are looking for you. Two, as complicated as it is, there are so few churches involving themselves in this sort of outreach that you stand to do well with minimal effort, depending on where your church is. Three, if we are to be making sure all are welcome in our congregations, why would we skip the demographic that is most actively willing and eager to meet us? And four, many of the efforts that improve one’s SEO status are good for the community and good for your own people even if they didn’t improve your SEO score. And that last answer is what I’ll focus on next week, in a post entitled, “If It Didn’t Improve My SEO Score, Why Should I Do It?”