By Rev. Michelle Foster
"As you do it to one of these...you do it also to me." — Matthew 25:40
We are in the season of thanksgiving, soon to be followed by Advent and then Christmas. People will be coming "home" for the holidays; others will be looking for a church to call their home. As we prepare for the holidays, let us do so by looking at our buildings, worship bulletins and liturgies through the eyes and feet of a visitor. Here are some things to consider:
• Are parking lots clean and visitor spaces marked? Is it clear where to park and where not to park?
• Are entry ways welcoming and inviting? Is anyone at the doors to greet people as they arrive?
• Is your building welcoming to those in wheelchairs, on walkers, or crutches?
• Are there appropriate signs throughout the building identifying nurseries, classrooms, restrooms, sanctuary, choir room, church office, etc.?
• Is the bulletin user-friendly to those who are not familiar to our style and context of worship?
• Is The Lord's Prayer printed in the bulletin?
• If communion is to be shared, is it clear who can partake and how to partake?
• Is there an invitation extended to join the church?
• Are words of welcome offered to those who are gathered for worship?
• Are your members welcoming to those who are "strangers" to them? Encourage your members to speak to at least three people who they do not know every Sunday. Consider having congregational greeters — it is their job to greet people, both known and unknown, as they find their place in the sanctuary.
• What is happening in the service that would capture the attention of the children?
• How are children and youth involved in the leadership and planning of worship?
• Is the bulletin formatted in such a way to encourage children in their worship experience? If not, consider developing a children's bulletin that will aid them in their worship.
• How do you know who the visitor's are among you? How do you follow-up with them following the service to let them know of your gratitude for their presence?
• How is your church inviting people in the community and beyond the walls of the church to come "home" and to make their home in your church?
Jesus said, "Whatever you have done to the stranger among you, so also you have done to me." Let us be a people of welcoming grace and hospitality.
Foster serves on the conference staff with children’s and family ministries.