Welcome to Church. Are You Safe?

“Welcome!”

“Turn around and shake someone’s hand.”

“We’re glad you are here.”

Each of these are phrases anyone would hear on a typical Sunday at AnyChurch, USA.

At one particular church I visited recently, I heard these typical greetings but then I also heard something distinctly different.

During each service, the pastor greeted everyone and welcomed them to the church. He introduced himself and his role but then he went one step further. He told us we were “safe.”

He went on to explain that he was glad we were there and recognized it could be the first time some had ever walked through the door of a church. “And that means you probably have questions. So,” he continued, “let me explain what you can expect.”

This may not sound like a big deal but it’s truly an important distinction from the “norm.” For most of us in ministry, it’s easy to lose sight of what it means to know nothing about a church service, praise song or offering. If we desire to create a “safe” environment, it’s common to assume that we’ve not only succeeded but that it’s being communicated effectively and often.

The pastor’s approach brings to mind three important things that every ministry should remember and be intentional about:

  1. Be clear on why you do what you do.
    Help everyone understand the mission of your church . . . in a language that someone who has never been in church (or has been wounded by the church) can understand and appreciate. Religious jargon won’t relate to these visitors. In addition, your regular attenders need the valuable reminder of the mission and purpose of the church as a whole. It engages them as well.
  2. Explain what it means to be safe.
    Many visitors are skeptical, particularly of “church.” The underlying question of “what do you want from me?” is looming in their minds. Make it clear that they are free to be themselves and their presence is important to you. It’s also important to ensure they understand what you will do with any personal information they may provide. Think safe.
  3. Realize ministry promises are carried out by everyone in the ministry. Here’s the real kicker: any statements can be made from a pulpit but it is how those phrases are carried out that really depends on the people sitting in the pews beside your visitors. “We’re glad you’re here,” comes to life with every smile, handshake and conversation. It begins to mean something.

The Sunday morning “welcome” happens each and every week and it is a huge opportunity to start a relationship on the right foot while reinforcing the core DNA of the church. Those few moments must be as intentional as every song sung and scripture read.

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2 thoughts on “Welcome to Church. Are You Safe?

  1. awesome advice as usual! I think we can use these in our online ministries too. Are our readers safe on our site? Are they able to leave questions, comments, or other concerns w/o worrying about being treated poorly or attacked? This has come up on my site. My site will be a safe place for my readers. I had to go back to moderating comments in order to make that possible. So many challenges :)

  2. Thanks for your comment Mel. This pastor did such a great job of making everyone feel both welcome and "safe". It made me wonder how many sitting around me were experiencing church for the first time. Those princples can apply to your website and ministry too. Great application. Thanks for sharing! We appreciate it!