All are welcome means nothing anymore

Confessions of a young, churched Baby Boomer: 10 signs the world has changed:
Part 2 of a series

Dec. 11, 2022

By Rev. Rick King

Our sign outside at the corner even says, “…No Exceptions.” We want people to know we mean it.

But how DO people know they’re welcome, no matter who they are, or where they are on life’s journey?

Even dying churches have “All are Welcome” signs outside.

What we hear back from first-time guests who return is truly telling about how authentic our welcome is.

But how do we get people to come for the first time? Personal invitation.

Let me illustrate what I mean by saying that I put very little faith in getting people to serve in some capacity, or show up to an event, by placing an item in the TAB or on social media, or even announcing it in Sunday worship. It’s too passive.

Phylliss Mae Johnson was a longtime leader in the Winona church where I served in the early 2000s.

She was so good at getting people to serve on the Missions and Outreach Board, people wondered over and over what her secret was.

It was actually no secret at all, if you observed Phylliss Mae after a worship service. She would come up to a person she wanted to consider serving, and ASK. She didn’t do email or call on the phone because they didn’t work. Face-to-face invitations were her stock-in-trade.

We use the more passive forms of communication because we feel squeamish about asking people face to face because we fear putting them on the spot. But those forms work best to remind people to attend things they’re already committed to attending. But they don’t work well at all in convincing somebody they’re invited and welcome to come to something new and for the first time.

And who does someone who’s not been to church, or to our church, trust the most about whether they’re truly welcome and wanted here? Members and active participants.

So, don’t depend on the sign outside our church, or the written messages of welcome in our publications or on our website—because they’re only good at reinforcing what people already know about us, OR at encouraging them to consider our church, or at least not rule it out.

What gets them here is your invitation. Nobody else but you is as effective at extending an authentic welcome to someone you know.

So invite somebody to the Christmas pageant this Sunday or to the choir service next Sunday. Both are events for first-time guests as well as longtime attendees.

Who will YOU invite to church for the first time this season?