In the book of Matthew (10:40) Jesus says: “Whoever welcomes you, welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.” He’s basically saying that each one of us has the opportunity to be a connection. Each one of us can be a way to connect another person to God’s presence. That’s a pretty awesome opportunity!
I remember several years ago meeting with about ten church greeters. We were talking about how we go about making people feel welcome at church. We talked about listening to our newcomers, making good eye contact, and reaching out with a handshake and a warm smile. We talked about where we were to stand and how we were to go about being helpful to someone who is brand new.
All of these details were important, but there was one fellow in the group who had a special stature. For several years he had stood at the entrance to a Wal-Mart store and welcomed the people who entered. He summed it up best by saying: “You know, every person is different. And we need to pay attention (and truly listen and respond) to the needs of each and every person.” These were words of wisdom from someone who had welcomed thousands.
It was obvious to me even on my first Sunday, that our church is a strong and vital United Methodist community. And of course that does not happen by accident. Our church has grown person by person, family by family as we have attempted to meet and warmly welcome people right where they are (both physically and spiritually).
As we approach our Open House Sunday (September 10), and begin to move into our fall season, let’s renew our efforts to become a congregation of welcomers. And just as you have so graciously welcomed Julia and me, let’s (each one of us) continue to be intentional about reaching out to our visitors and newcomers with thoughtfulness, caring, and the warmth of God’s love.
—In Christ, Joe