By Andrea Johnson
Did you know you could be part of one of the most important ministries in the church? It doesn’t require a specific skill set, but not everyone can do it. What is it? Making every effort to ensure that the people who walk through the doors of your church feel welcome, especially children!
Why children? Because how they feel when they walk through the doors of the church will likely set the tone for how they feel about church the rest of their lives. Going to church for a child should feel like going to Grandpa’s and Grandma’s house. Grandparents aren’t perfect, but where else does a child feel so welcome? No matter how much or how little you’ve grown or how smart or talented you are, Grandpa and Grandma think that you are simply the best. In fact, they will tell everyone within earshot how wonderful you are. They will listen to your endless stories no matter how boring they are because those stories matter to you, and you matter to them.
Unless a person strongly believes there is no God, then I don’t know how they can justify keeping their children out of church or attending only sporadically. That would be like expecting your children to learn to read by themselves without teaching them phonics or like telling them to “pick up” math skills from the world around them. But today fewer and fewer people seem to recognize the importance of consistent church attendance. One thing that will help parents make that effort to bring their children to church is to know that their children are going to be in an environment, like their grandparents’ house, where they are safe, welcomed, and celebrated.
I was struck when reading Louann Nealy’s article [Read] about her level of trust in a God who is her “constant,” a God who has never failed her. It’s a precious testimony of a person who was raised consistently attending church as a child. Church was where she met with and became filled with the Holy Spirit. Today she is a phenomenal, powerful, and anointed worship leader and author.
When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up? That’s what they’re looking for.” I think that’s what we are all looking for!Toni Morrison
Of course this need for extending a welcome applies not only to children. No matter how good your worship team is and how well your pastor preaches, people won’t come back to your church if they feel out of place. Although official “church greeters” certainly fill an important role in welcoming those who come, it means more to you if you are a visitor to have a regular church member take an interest in you than to receive a compulsory greeting by someone scooting you through the church doors into the sanctuary. And it’s important that visitors feel just as welcome the next time they attend.
The church Bill Francavilla pastors, Living Hope, an Open Bible church in Williamsburg, Virginia, could get an “A+” in hospitality. It’s worth noting that it was church members, not the pastor, who were the first people to meet one of their recent visitors, a man clothed in a dress who went by both a male and female name. Without condoning his behavior, these church members saw a person whom God loves dearly. Instead of self-righteously demanding he leave the church grounds or sitting back silently snickering at the man’s appearance and demeanor, these church members made sure the visitor felt welcome and tried to learn how they could minister to him [Read].
When I was a single parent with two young children, I tried to establish roots. We had moved a lot and I wanted my children to meet good lifelong friends. We were at church nearly every time the doors were open. The kids even attended the church’s daycare! I almost felt bad dragging them along to every service. But one Wednesday evening, having picked up the kids from the church daycare just over an hour earlier, we pulled up once again to the church parking lot. As my seven-year-old son exited the car, he took a good look at the building, grinned widely, and exclaimed, “Church, sweet church.” We had indeed found our second home.
No church is perfect. Each one is filled with imperfect people – like us! But if most of those people know the importance of pressing in, nurturing their faith, and caring about the children who walk through the church doors, I can’t help but think they will have a huge impact on someone’s life.
I love a quote by author Toni Morrison, “When a child walks in the room, your child or anybody else’s child, do your eyes light up? That’s what they’re looking for.” I think that’s what we are all looking for!