When I first started working in ministry, I met a wonderful elder. He was very concerned that our congregation grew, so he visited a Mega-Church in Texas for a three-day workshop on the subject. He came home full of ideas and excitement. Mega-Church has an information booth in the foyer for visitors, so he decided we needed one too if we were going to grow. In our little church, the only problem was that three friendly couples greeted visitors. The visitors were given a warm handshake (this was pre-covid), a smile, and a bulletin. Then the guests were shown to class or to a place in the auditorium for worship. This did two things. First, this ensured the visitors didn’t sit in someone else’s place. (I once saw a member demand a visiting family sit someplace else because she had been sitting in that spot for twenty years. The visitors never came back.) Second, the visitors became guests in our family. The greeters introduced the guests to someone else before they returned to the foyer.
A visitor information booth made sense in a congregation of 5,000, but it seemed a little silly in one of 300. There was a great danger the information booth would discourage the greeters and possibly even end their ministry. Instead, our three little couples simply moved from greeting visitors in the foyer to meeting them out front on the steps as they got out of their cars! It was brilliant. The last I knew, the information booth had become a lost-and-found.
Think about it for a moment. It can be a very frightening thing to visit a church. Everyone knows everyone (and if they don’t, that’s a subject for another day). You are the outsider. You don’t know what to expect. “Will I be singled-out?” Recently, a young, troubled woman visited our worship. She desperately needed God, but she was terribly, terribly shy. She was worried she wouldn’t be accepted because of her clothes and greasy hair. She arrived after services began and sat as close to the door as possible. (She didn’t know in most churches; you must arrive early to get a backseat.) My wife Jan befriended the girl before the last song was finished and even got her to stay for the potluck following services. (It wasn’t that hard. She was hungry.)
What happened next was as natural as it was sad. The girl sat by herself while Jan tended to some of our seniors. Sister Busybody pounced with a bright smile and a thousand questions. The shy girl left as quickly as she could. Then Sister Busybody explained to anyone who would listen that the girl was some distant relative’s ex and probably was a drug addict. The girl was looking for God, but we never saw her again.
Please read Luke 7:36 – 50 and think about how that applies to this situation.