One of the most difficult segments of people to reach are new visitors to a church. At our church, we do the best we can to make new visitors feel welcome by implementing the “First Five” after church. This is where regular attendees spend the first five minutes after the church service introducing themselves to someone they don’t know. This moves the regular attendees out of their comfort zones, as well as make new visitors feel like people are interested in getting to know them.
Before I was a pastor’s wife, I was new to a church as well. I know that the people who came to me and made me feel welcomed were instrumental in making me attend the church on a regular basis. About fifteen years ago during a Missions conference, I attended a Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner event, where congregation members went to pre-determined hosts’ homes to eat and fellowship in the hopes of getting to know new attendees better. Although it was intimidating to enter the homes of people I didn’t know, I got a chance to ask questions to older members of the church about how they got involved with the church, where they serve and about their personal lives, all questions I would never have asked after a church service. I may have walked in as a stranger, but I walked out as a friend.
Jesus knew what he was doing when he spent a lot of his time eating and drinking over people’s homes. Something special happens when people open their homes to others. Trust is established. Intimacy is obtained. Fellowship is enjoyed.
If you are looking for ways to get to know new members better, you can host your own church-wide event. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
Before the event
- Ask people to volunteer their homes to host new members.
- Delegate each host to be responsible for their course. For example, one host family will be in charge of having salad, another dessert, another the side dishes, etc.
- Make sure there are enough hosts to make all of the courses you plan to have.
- Designate other members to escort the new members to each home. These should be people willing to get to know new members ahead of time.
During the event
- Divide the new members into groups, along with other seasoned members so they don’t have to feel intimidated as to know where to go.
- Give each group a “map” of which houses to go to first and what course will be served in what order. Some will get salad first, some will get the main course, and some will get dessert!
- Limit each stop to thirty to forty-five minutes each, so each host must have food already prepare before the first group arrives. Each group moves from house to house. It’s like speed dating, except you are eating.
After the event
- Ask new members to fill out a survey asking them what they liked and didn’t like about the event.
- Ask them for suggestions on how to improve.
- Encourage seasoned members to continue to meet with them after the event so they feel acclimated to the church and more likely to initiate meeting other new members.
- Run the event every six months so no one is left out.
Hospitality can be a difficult subject, not only to teach to a congregation, but also implement in our overworked, busy schedules. Hosting a church-wide Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Party allows all members of the congregation to use their gifts of hospitality and get to know new members in the process.
Michelle S. Lazurek is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor’s wife and mother. She has been published over one hundred times in places such as Charisma Magazine, crosswalk.com and Christianity Today’s website Gifted For Leadership. She also teaches writers’ workshops for various places such as the Montrose Christian Writers conference. She is a member of the Christian Author’s Network and Advanced Writers’ and speakers Association. Her newest book, An Invitation to the Table explores the biblical concept of hospitality. For more info, please visit her website at www.michellelazurek.com