“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” You’ve heard this and know that is absolutely true. How many restaurants, churches, or businesses do you have filed in your “I’ll never go back there.” file? For many of us most of those places failed to impress us on our first experience.
To me our church ought to be the friendliest place in the community. Hospitality for us is a must!
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers” -Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)
People will plug into a church that excels in really loving one another. There is no better compliment I can receive from a first time guest than, “Wow this is the friendliest church I have ever been to!”
If our church isn’t welcoming, the music, messages, kid’s and youth ministries and outreach opportunities won’t get noticed because people just want to get out. If our church isn’t friendly people won’t feel the Spirit move them. Great music, messages and ministries serve to attract people, but if we fail to display love and care people will not feel compelled to make our church their home. Church doesn’t always have to be about pondering the deepest theological questions. Simple hospitality provides a natural platform for feeling welcome, forming friendships and growing spiritually.
In the first seven minutes of their experience with our church, our guests will decide whether or not they’re going to come back. Somewhere between the parking lot, the kid’s area, restrooms or kitchen the seven minutes pass. They should know they matter to us before they hear how much they matter to God.
Maybe that seems unfair but, fair or not, it’s true. Blame it on the power of the God-given subconscious mind.
Obviously, our guests aren’t making a well-thought-out decision based on the integrity of the message (they haven’t heard it yet), the character of our church staff (they’ve never met them). They’re not weighing the pros and cons of our worship style and theological viewpoints.
Instead, they are taking in clues about our church’s atmosphere and people’s friendliness on a much more rudimentary level. Their subconscious minds are working overtime to evaluate their compatibility with this new environment. First impressions include the parking lot and greeters. First impressions also include how our facility is kept up and maintained including smells and cleanliness.
When God entrusts us with first-time guests, we have an incredible responsibility.
Hospitality does make a difference, it opens both doors and hearts and can have just as powerful of an impact on the one practicing it as the one who receives. Hospitality doesn’t have to be expensive but it must be excellent. The last time I checked smiles, handshakes, kind words, hugs and authenticity are free. Will you join me in making a difference?
“Never get tired of doing little things for others. Sometimes, those little things occupy the biggest part of their hearts.”— Unknown