This past Sunday my wife and I were out of town and had the opportunity to visit another church (something I rarely get to do as a pastor). The city where we were staying had several large and famous churches, some of them nationally known. We chose the biggest one. And I mean big. This church has hundreds of acres, thousands of parking spots, and tens of thousands of members.
And yet, we walked away with a genuinely bad impression. Why? No welcome team, no greeters, no one talked to us. We didn’t exist in their eyes. We parked in a spot clearly designated ‘guest parking.’ No volunteers were working the area to greet us or welcome us to their church. We walked up to a huge bank of eight double doors. No one stood at the doors to say hello. We walked in feeling like we were interrupting something. The front atrium looked like a mall, with vaulted ceiling and mandatory coffee shop in the corner. Around fifty members or so were scattered throughout this vast expanse of the east entrance. No one greeted, no one welcomed new comers, no one even looked up to acknowledge our existence.
We slipped in the back of the first service towards the end, as the announcements were given. Senior adults were streaming out the back to get to their Sunday School classes before the ‘rush’ (and it definitely would be a rush with 3,000 people all exiting at once). Not wanting to get in the way of the seniors on the way to their classes, and afraid of the mad rush once services let out, we left this mega church without staying for the next service.
In and out, without talking to a soul. As a pastor, it convicted me to the absolute importance of having some type of Welcome Team out in force on Sunday mornings. A new church will always feel intimidating. A friendly Welcome Team can make the first experience so much better.
(full disclosure: Mt Vernon has a Welcome Team, and I think it rocks. This experience made me even more grateful for the hard work they do each and every week.)