Sunday, March 21, 2010

To church members and staff....from the eyes of a visitor.

Ok, these are my thoughts, feelings, and observations from the last 6 months of visiting churches and feeling my way through that process. These are a few things I have seen from within my own heart and a few things I have noticed through the eyes of a visitor.

Here is what I know....

1. People come into church looking all fabulous, cleaned up, put together, bibles in tow, and appear to have it all together. HOWEVER, we are broken, hurting, lonely, sad, scared, anxious, and insecure (to some degree) needing to meet people and Jesus in a REAL LIFE HEART FELT WAY!!!!! Yes, it's true. Every single one of us is broken. Every single one of us need relationships here on earth. Every single one of us need Jesus.

2. I might know 50 people or I may know 5 people in your church. Oh wait....I might not know a soul in your church. I need someone to acknowledge my presence in your church and recognize that I darkened your doors. I need to know that you really care and want me and my family to come back. And, I mean that beyond the "I'm glad you are here today and hope you come back and if you have any questions let me know" sort of thing.

3. I want someone to acknowledge my kids. Even though I might have middle school boys, their mom and dad still take them everywhere and I want to know who you are and what you do as a church to minister to these kids. I am very interested in that. VERY! Communication is good. Especially to the seeker. And do this more than once.

4. If we have spent months in your church and then all of a sudden stop coming, please call and say you miss us and let us know what is going so we don't feel left out and dismissed so easily. Remember #1 above? Read it again. Let me talk mail for one second. Please add us to your mailing lists or email lists or whatever your church has going list so I'll know what is going on. Call me needy, but I want someone to reach out to us. It's not fun to do all the digging as a visitor.

5. Finally, invest in your visitors when you see that they have been coming fairly regularly. Reach out to them. Call, email, mail, whatever. DO SOMETHING. ANYTHING. PLEASE. The keyword is invest. Act like the church and reach out to them. Go back to #1 again.

It is so hard to walk into a church with all the junk that you may be carrying, acting as if all is right with the world, and desperately wanting a place to call home. It is hard. Period.

If you are active in a church or on staff of a church, please take the time to invest in your visitors. And I mean, take the time to guide them, show them, share with them, include them, and invite them to everything you can think of when it comes to your church. And, don't forget about them when they have been coming for awhile too. ;)

I'm ready to be at home. My heart is all but crying out for it. Praying to find it soon.

Love you all!


Barbie said...

So very true! I am on a church staff and I do have to admit for whatever reason visitor follow up has been hard. Maybe because we aren't a traditional church...we are a House of we don't offer all the programs traditional churches do. We are doing better, but have a ways to go. Praying God leads you to the right church home soon.

Leah @ Point Ministries said...

Oh, yes. Sounds like you have found some good, some bad and some ugly, Fran. I pray that you find 'home' soon.


you gotta wonder said...

This is great advice. You're welcome to visit my church in Cedar Park, Tx...but I suppose that's too far of a commute. Meanwhile, I'll do my best to follow the suggestions you've outlined. Blessings, Fran. I wish you well in your search.

Darla said...

this is so true, at times it all seems like more of a business than God's business...the only thing i would add is..

"Please watch how your eyes roam over me and my family as if we may or may not fit properly with the style you all carry so well, Please remember that although your mouth may not be critical, your eyes are doing a number on someones heart, K?thnx"

Praying for you and pleading on your behalf that God leads you to the church family HE has for you, you are precious to my heart! love ya

Mary R Snyder said...

Oh my heart! This hurts. I've been there and in some ways, still am. I'm shocked at how much church has become about 'us' and not 'them.'
I'm stunned that invest thousand of hours and thousands of dollars on reaching out with our programs, but won't follow up with a visitor.

I doubt Jesus is impressed with our outreach programs. His heart breaks for the one we didn't speak to in the pew next to us.

It's heartbreaking for you and your family, but I see God's hand all over this. He has you in this season for a reason -- He has a plan in this. I'm praying for you as He prepares your heart.

Melinda said...

Oh honey girl...I would like to print this and drop it off at each of the churches we've visited over the last year. Actually, I'd like to take it to the church we think is "home" now, as we're STILL not connected there and have had some very exclusive experiences. One has to wonder when our churches started finding it more important to foster the idea of church more than just being the church.

I believe, sweet friend, that you are being given this experience as a lesson from God (much like my own - see "God's Classroom" on my blog). There's a reason you are going through this. In the meantime, I'm praying that "home" will open it's doors - and arms - to you very soon.

Love you,

Evangelism Coach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Evangelism Coach said...

This is a great list!

One thing I try and do in our hospitality training is to help leaders EMPATHIZE with visitors.

I recommend that hospitality committees visit churches outside their tradition, individually. That exercise generates a lot of empathy.

Chris Walker
How to Welcome Church Visitors

Mary Lou said...

May He lead you to the home that He has just for all of you. My heart breaks for you. A great list, needs to be printed in big letters and given to all churches. Praying for your sweet family.

Jennifer said...

Great Points-Fran-it would be great for all churches to do this but it is not just the church staff but all who are apart of the church need to feel convicted that welcoming visitors and caring for visitors is part of what Jesus calls us to do. Having been on that journey of looking for a church,I am aware that it is often painful, I have visited churches where no one even spoke to me the entire time I was there. Unfortunately, it seems that even when you are member of a church friendliness often seems to be lacking. This seems to be an area where all Christian Traditions need help, I have visited many denominations and nobody even comes close to the church in ACTS so what's the deal, we need community. Anyway, Fran, praying for you and for your family that you will know where God is calling you.

Staceystace said...

Fran ~ don't give up! I had given up completely. After years of looking for a church to call home, where I could be loved, accepted, and find a place to serve and feel of some use - I really thought I would NEVER find such a place. But a few months ago we found it. And after all the searching I am now super sensitive to others coming in who may feel lonely, confused or hopeless, and God has given me opportunities I never would have had otherwise. Once you find the place God has for you and get settled you will have grown even more - and you will find it. :o)

Valerie said...

Hey Fran love your list!! It was just last year that I walked in and found my home church. I was greeted at the door. Then invited up to meet the staff. Right away I was involved. But I remember as I walked in the door the feelings I had. I'll be praying that you find your home church soon!! I know the emptiness I felt while looking for mine.

connorcolesmom said...

Sweet Fran,
What great truth!
I think we get in such a bubble and comfort zone when we have been at a church for a long time that we become insensitive to the visitors.
Thank you for reopening my eyes although sometimes I still feel like a visitor myself ....
Praying for God to lead you to a church home and family!
Much love

Anonymous said...

Well...for what it is worth you have been missed at my church! I know you have been trying new churches and I wanted you to know that I have noticed your absence here! I miss your smiling face and warm hugs! I love you and miss you!!! Jennifer

Georgia Jan said...

Oh Fran I wish you could come to my church - because although we are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination - we've got this one RIGHT! We have Welcome Centers all over our church campus - greeters, parking lot helpers, welcomers, whatever you need us to be - walk you to your class - help you find a class - gifts - smiling faces - reserved parking - and LOVE! People that visit tell us they feel the presence of God and the family love when they get out of their cars and for that I am so thankful. Because we are home to a HUGE military base and people come and go often, we really work at getting folks in and plugged in! We have youth that pair up with visiting youth - children that do the same. It is so good.

I remember a particular vacation one time over 10 years ago when we experienced the "who are these strangers" in our church while we attended a church during our vacation. It was horrible - I would NEVER have gone back there if we had lived in that town. We came home and decided to do something different at our home church, and it grew and flourished.

I pray you will find that church home very soon - it is so painful when you are feeling "outside the family." We need each other and we can't ever forget that.

Love much,

Lindsee said...

Sweet Fran,

Visiting churches is so hard. Yes, I've gone and now work at the same church I grew up in. Although we don't do visitors completely perfect, we do our best to make them feel completely welcome. You can't walk in our church without being greeted or acknowledged. We also have a system within our whole church through the different ministries that sends out specific info on all that each individual ministry has, does and offers.

I know because I send it out for all the youth! Truly, it's amazing the response we've gotten.

Visiting churches in college was the hardest thing for me! I didn't know a soul and went completely by myself. I was so thakful one Sunday when a complete stranger asked me to sit with her. I loved that church, but I felt so awkward.

It was after that, that I realized if I want to get to know more folks, I'VE got to take the initiative and get more involved myself. Volunteering when I could and for things in my age range. It was the best thing that ever happened.

Visiting churches are tough, and not one has it done perfect! Seriously praying for strength for y'all as you wait and visit churches. I know it can be so weary. Seriously just wrote a whole post on my blog yesterday about that. What to do in the waiting!

Love you, lady!


Anonymous said...

Excellent post! As someone who went through the search for a new church home just last year, I can totally relate.

Warren Baldwin said...

These were great ideas. I'm going to pass this on to our church leaders.

Anonymous said...

One thing to add - it's not just church staff. When you're a visitor and see everybody chatting and hugging and nobody even says good morning to you, that can be the loneliest feeling in the world.

Cyndi said...

I loved your post about being a visitor. I so want to make people feel welcome at our church. It's too big for me to see every visitor but I try to always be friendly and greet everyone.
The first point is so true and as I was reading it I was agreeing and I'm the pastors wife. I come every Sunday needing Jesus just like everyone else.
thanks for the reminder.

Shonda said...

I can so relate to this Fran! We've recently moved to another city and find ourselves in this predicament. It is hard as we're starting our 4th month of this process.

Blessings to you dear!

I blog so you can get a glimpse into my life as wife, mom of 3 boys, and someone who simply wants to bless others along the way. Have fun and be sweet :)

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