Strangers in your midst

Reader RS commented on an earlier post, my angsting about first-day-at-church worries.

I am in a new developing church and we have new, unchurched people every week. The biggest struggle is how to make the visitor card not a big red hat that says, “HEY, I’M NEW HERE”. How do you make the visitor not feel like a stranger?

I felt it was worth a post all on its own. There’s no getting around that stranger feeling when you’re new, of course. Any church can only do so much about it. But I think the key thing is this: The sincerity with which I was greeted by ordinary members did more to make me feel comfortable there than any official greeting would have. Visitor’s cards, acknowledgement by the pastor (or whatever), official greeter types, all have a certain feeling to them – duty? procedure? something – that isn’t present when an ordinary person just says hi.

Also, a certain amount of feeling like a stranger is appropriate, because after all you are checking this place out to decide whether to be less of a stranger. The best thing, I think, is for there to be a natural, grassroots welcoming feeling, because it will do more to make someone feel welcome, and they’ll make their own decision about whether the place feels like home. The couple I sat with at Asbury said that they had gone to a different church that was closer to where they lived, but nobody said hi to them so they stopped going. It made sense to me. It’s a little like work, actually: Whether the boss takes you to lunch on your first day has less to do with whether you’re happy than whether your co-workers say hi as they pass your desk.

4 Responses to “Strangers in your midst”

  1. 1 abailey January 10, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    Holly, this information is so helpful! It makes me understand the responsibility I have in making sure that a visitor feels welcome at my church. I usually think either the pastor or the worship leader is what hooks visitors, when actually it’s that unsolicited friendliness from a stranger. I love this post!

  2. 2 lindy January 10, 2007 at 9:30 pm


    I love this blog. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights. Like Andrea, I found this post to be especially helpful. I often find myself at church a little shy to reach out to someone new, but your comments encourage me that it’s not about formula, rather genuine sincerity. I can do that. Thanks again for writing.

  3. 3 Tom Goodman January 16, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Thanks so much! I am linking to this post in my e-newsletter (; ) this week.

  4. 4 Johnd27 May 9, 2014 at 8:43 am

    You’re so interesting! I don’t think I have read anything like this before. So wonderful to discover somebody with some unique thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This website is one thing that is needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality! ebeggaegbece

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