I was on staff at the church my husband and I helped plant. I knew my church’s history, our theology, our vision for the future. I knew each family in the directory that I printed myself — their interests, their talents, their battles. I had the privilege of welcoming the congregation each week and telling them about prayer requests, opportunities and needs in our sweet church family.
I knew them, and I was known; I loved them, and I was loved.
So when my husband and I moved from Ohio to Colorado, finding a new church to attend was our top priority. We googled area congregations, checked out their doctrine online, drove by their addresses and of course we prayed. We’ve attended a few Sunday services, and I also visited a ladies Bible study — a very interesting experience for someone used to planning, organizing and leading such groups “back home.”
Here’s what I learned as the new girl in town visiting churches and Bible studies for the first time:
1. Create a welcoming culture.
I was quickly recognized as a visitor and was warmly welcomed and shown the essentials: sanctuary, restroom, coffee pot! The kicker? This wasn’t done by trained staff or a team of volunteers, but folks in the congregation who implemented their culture of kindness.
2. Introduce as many people as you can.
At the Bible study I attended, they made time for every woman to introduce herself. This was so helpful to me—and to them! As an outsider, you assume everyone knows everyone but they let on that they all met someone new. A new guest is the perfect time for reintroductions.
3. Get a move on.
While I’m used to locking up the church after a service or group, this time I made a quick getaway as clusters of friends formed. Make a beeline to her side because she’d rather make a run for her car than stand around looking awkward.
4. Let her ask questions.
My questions may have seemed random, but they were rooted in my history and colored by my back story. Encourage naïve, probing, theological or logistical inquiries. The more she knows about you, the better she can connect to you.
5. Be personal, not programmatic.
Handing her a welcome packet is not your goal; your goal is to uncover her heart. Getting her name and email address in your database is secondary to knowing more about her life.
6. Follow up. Now.
If you do happen to get that ever-important email address or phone number, follow up immediately. She’s mulling over her experience, and she sought you out for a reason. The email I received from the Bible study leader endeared her to me and made me want to return.
Looking at ministry through fresh eyes — the eyes of the new girl in town — can refresh our passion and restore our purpose.
Share & Comment: How do you welcome new women to your ministry?