A Call for Thoughtfulness

November 01, 2002 | Jere Patzer

Some years ago in the Upper Columbia Conference, a youth group decided to test the friendliness of Adventist churches.

So one Sabbath, they dressed up like street kids— “punks”—and their adult sponsors drove them to some Adventist churches in the area.

Unannounced, they walked in. Without too severely taxing your imagination, you can guess that their receptions could have been better.

I hope that through the years we’ve become a visitor-friendly denomination. As my wife, Sue, and I visit churches around the Northwest, we’ve been inspired with certain things our churches do to make guests know they are welcome.

Adequate parking. If your parking lot was adequate 30 years ago, when the average car brought four people to church, it may not be today, when fewer than two people arrive per car.

Designated guest parking. If guest parking is located closest to the entrance, it makes a positive statement.

Multiple greeters. One of my favorite churches meets members and guests with umbrellas on rainy days. Guests should always be shown—not merely told—where to go.

Lunch invitations. Our home church has either a potluck or designated families prepared to invite every visitor to lunch, each week.

Attractive and professional signage. If they can’t find you, they won’t come!

Attractive facility and clean bathrooms. Cleanliness is next to godliness, especially in church.

Worship service sensitivity. Assume you’re coming for the first time to an Adventist church. Would you feel comfortable in your home church?

Relational activities. In today’s culture, many come to the Church through the “side door”, i.e. social activities and small groups that open the heart and mind to more traditional evangelism.

Christ-Centered. And finally, we need Christ-centered, biblically based, love-filled messages shared in the sermon, the music, and study of the Bible.

These are just a few elements of church hospitality Sue and I have noticed and appreciated. You’ll find other good ideas in this GLEANER issue. And if your church has had particular successes in church hospitality, why not share the news with our readers by sending letters to the GLEANER editor?

If we would humble ourselves before God, and all our church members were kind and courteous and tenderhearted, there would be 100 conversions to the truth where now there is only one (Ellen G. White, 9 Testimonies, 189, paraphrased).

So, when those “street people” show up at your church, maybe it won’t be a disguised church youth group. They may be coming because they’ve heard how friendly you are.