By Mark Johannesen
In my last post I wrote how my family made the decision to change schools with our daughter. And without going into that change too much I can say that it has been a great move.
A month ago her new school, which is a Christian school, hosted a Christmas party for the families of its students, so we attended. The interesting detail is that 85% percent of the students also go to church at this church-sponsored school. That meant when we came to this event we were the visitors.
Now, in my church I try during the opening of worship services that I lead, to welcome visitors. We try to use our bulletin to connect visitors, and I try following services to introduce myself and to make myself available to visitors and those who worship regularly. We also try to follow up with visitors, and I love when regulars at our church get intentional and welcome them.
In our youth group I hope the same things happen in a context that works well for students.
During the day that I was a visitor I had another dad whose daughter is in my daughter’s class, do a great job of making me feel welcome. But I also sat across the table from one of the pastors who spent more time looking at his phone than talking to me. I even tried to ask him questions with a hope to get to know him. Now I confess, he could have had other things on his mind or some pressing details to tend to but for me, I felt invisible.
Let me throw out some questions that I’ve been thinking about that relate to this:
1. Would visitors to your youth groups or church have felt welcomed when they came to visit?
2. What do you do to collect contact information from them when they visit? Do you try to get their families’ contact info?
3. What do you do inside your meeting times to make them feel welcome? (Introducing them, games where student’s names are used to get them familiar)
4. Is there anything you do that could make them feel uneasy, or like they should come back? (The first thing that comes to my mind is that sometimes the games we play might make a visitor feel uneasy.)
5. Do you send them any follow-up gifts?
If nothing else, I hope that those questions stimulate you to examine how you interact with visitors.
Check out the last two verses of Ephesians and check out the love of Christ in action as we hear Paul’s heart for the church in Ephesus– “Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”
Rev. Mark Johannesen is pastor at Word of Life Lutheran Brethren Church in LeSueur, Minnesota.