The Welcoming Church!

So – thinking about churches being welcoming places, rather than what so many people describe – how do we do it well? Or go a step further – do we want to do it well, or at all?

How many churches only welcome those who look like the people already attending? In how many churches is it really only the ministry team and maybe – maybe – a couple of hard-core members who do the welcoming?

And how many Christians in our churches simply aren’t looking beyond themselves and their group of friends, to look around on a Sunday morning and think beyond their own needs and desires and to go out of their way to welcome new people into the community – and not just a quick hello and my name is Bill, but a real welcome, a genuine opening of the arms to gather in those Christ has called to his body, opening our homes and lives to new people, sharing what we have received for the kingdom of God? Not just Sunday – but for weeks and months and years even welcoming those who come to the churches we attend.

Is that the problem with welcoming? We think of it as a job – but really it’s a lifestyle, a choice to respond to those Jesus has called!?

Casting Crowns – “If we are the body…”

What should you do this Sunday? Monday? Tuesday?… etc!

A Welcoming Church 3

Ten Commandments – Front Line Welcoming

  1. You get one chance to make a first impression – so make it a good one.
  2. Visitors are honoured guests – so they should get VIP treatment. They are not intruders – they are an opportunity for us to express Christ’s love.
  3. Remember the environment and the people are all strange to them. Visitors may feel apprehensive, especially getting morning tea after the service.
  4. Members must go out of their way to speak to visitors, be prepared to chat for some time. Look after them introduce them around. Don’t leave them stranded. Hi and good bye are simply not enough.
  5. Take the newcomer at their pace. Don’t embarrass them, don’t be pushy – be warm and friendly but let them enter the community at their own pace – fast or slow.
  6. Wear a nametag – they don’t know and won’t remember your name. Does your church have a system where you can quickly generate a name tag for the visitor? Should do and it should look the same as everyone elses.
  7. Generally people want to meet the minister – so create an opportunity after the service and introduce them. If there is time before the service and the minister obviously has time (not always true) then before is OK too. However don’t introduce and leave – you have become their new best friend for the day – stick around or arrange someone who can.
  8. The minister is one person and cannot do it all – even ½ is beyond him or her. They will have lots of people wanting to have a chat and pass on news.
  9. A warm welcome is stage one only. To incorporate the newcomer takes time and energy.
  10. People visit churches for all sorts of reasons – but they stay mainly for one – relationships.

What to say after you say “hello”?

  • People like to talk about special interests.  The BIG clue is to ask questions that call for more than a simple “yes” or “no” response – you want to get them talking rather than answering questions.
  • Invent your own interest style, taking care not to pry and always being alert that some people have hurts – a recent death, divorce, depression – that make them vulnerable. How you listen and show interest is important.
  • Learn by heart a couple of special questions that you find helpful.

People often like to talk about

  1. Their family, their children or their children’s school – “I noticed you had a couple of kids with you this morning…? – Where do they go to school, what are their names, what grades are they in, how do they enjoy school, what sports do they play…?”
  2. The street they live in and how long – “How long have you lived in … street?”
  3. Why they chose your particular Church – “It was great you could join us this morning – how did you find out about the church?”
  4. A special interest? – “I noticed you had a Bulldogs jersey – are you into football?”
  5. Pets and pet topics (theirs not yours)
  6. Some major world event – but avoid the gory and the political – Try “The … disaster was sad for everyone?” or “How will the world cope with these major oil spills?” or “Have you been watching the cricket… Rugby World Cup… Olympic Games…

Things to Avoid

  1. “Are you new here?” You’re bound to get someone who has been coming for years but is not overly active in the church – and in my experience they will get offended! Better to say, “I don’t think we know each other?” or “I don’t think we’ve met before – my name is…”. And don’t do what I did once – said that to the same person at three separate meetings over 4 months! Oops. Pay attention.
  2. “Who are you?’  This is blunt and often means “What do you do?” Job questions are better kept for further into a conversation – and the reality is we probably don’t really care what they do yet – when we get to know them we might but early on it’s a copout conversation piece.
  3. Leaving people in the lurch – if you’ve welcomed them make sure they have people to talk to, food in their hands and a cuppa. If no one else is available to talk then you’re on deck. And don’t cut and run. Once you’ve introduced them, keep watch, rescue them if need be, rescue others if need be. If they get involved in a conversation that’s obviously fine, but they are just getting a feel for the place so help them get around a little and when you leave come back.
  4. A question that is not from the heart. Ask, showing you want to listen. People can generally pick a phoney a mile away – except for real estate agents and car salesmen. So ask questions that you are willing to listen to the answer to – and then listen. Don’t listen with an ear to what you’re going to say, or trying to hear what your friends are saying – listen with your ears and eyes… with your attention firmly focussed on them. Be attentive!
  5. The quick talk to just do your duty.
  6. Quickly moving to animated and lively interaction with close friends. Rather – introduce your new contact to your circle and continue to make him/her feel comfortable. You can ring your friends later, have a meal with them and catch up – and most visitors won’t stick around for hours anyway. Spend 15 minutes in their company and unless you’re a fruit loop in all likelihood they will return next week – because they connected with a human who cared.
  7. The uncomfortable – allow space and personal differences – if they express opinions that differ to yours does it really matter. Even theological issues don’t all have to be resolved within the first 5 minutes. If they are a non-Christian then it’s not their differing theology that matters – it’s their stand against God that matters – we can deal with the other things later.


  1. Leave the conversation with a bright note and if possible connect him/her to another face, another ministry, or another interest.
  2. Leave a latch, a key to further interaction
    • “See you next week?” Await a response!
    • “Can I phone you?”  Take the phone number
  3. If they have an interest in something particular; “Bob Jones can help you here. How about I introduce you to him – or I could get him to give you a call in the next couple of weeks?” Get an address and/or phone number if at ease.
  4. Be committed to follow up. If you say you will then do what you say.

Caution: Genuine interest in new faces is the crucial missing ingredient in many churches. Will you be genuine?

Always talk to a new face or someone you don’t know well before linking up with your friends.

Some Final Ideas

1.            Generosity is the key.

  • You really want to involve this new face in your church, your life, and your circle of friends.
  • You want to share yourself and your friends.
    • You don’t? Leave welcoming to someone else.

2.            Take the initiative.

  • Newcomers need to be welcomed on the spot with a smile and an outstretched hand – “Good to see you here.”
  • Give that person the V.I.P. Treatment and remember to smile at regulars.
  • Ever felt left out? Initiative is often the quickest cure. You can be a self-starter.

3.            Listen.

  • Answer questions asked directly.
  • Observe the body language.
  • Accept the person just as he or she is.
  • Learn some starter questions and give the newcomer the opportunity to talk.
  • Your prompts are best taken from your interest in what the newcomer is saying.
  • Three wise words  “Listen, Listen, Listen.”

4.            Assume nothing.

  • “If you ASSUME… you may make an ASS of U and ME.”
  • Your newcomer could be the most important new face in your church God has sent this year – so don’t assume someone else will say hello. Don’t assume the person wants to be alone – they’ve come to church for friendship and welcome as much as for God’s word. If they are a non-Christian they may not know why they are here.
  • He/she needs your care

Some Final Hints

People basically like people.
People like to be liked.
People matter to God.
Be creative and a listener to the visitor.
Know what your church offers.

A Welcoming Church 2

A Biblical Basis for Welcome!

One of the reasons – maybe the prime reason – why we study the Bible is that it reveals to us aspects of God’s character.  As we consider his characteristics – what he is like, how he acts and speaks – and as we begin to try to be like him, that can truly affect the way we think, act and live towards others.

Whilst one verse is hardly a summary of the Scriptures, John 3:16-17 shows us the great reality of God’s plan revealed in the Bible…

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

In other words when we were incapable of moving towards God – he took the initiative, at great cost to himself, to rescue us and draw us back to himself.

Romans 5:8 “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

There’s a song that was around in the 80’s – we don’t use it much anymore – it went like this;

Father welcomes all his children
To his family through his Son.
Father giving his salvation,
life forever has been won.”
(© Ring of Praise)

Or maybe better is the parable of the prodigal son – which really we should rename as the parable of the forgiving or welcoming father.

Have a read of Luke 15:11-32. For a searchable online Bible go to

What we find at the end of the parable is the father waiting for the son – in fact going out each day to look for and wait for him – it’s not really about the son who was foolish but about the father representing God the Father – his love and welcome for all who turn away from their sin and turn to him – who say with the son “I am not worthy to be called your son”… only to have the father forgive and welcome us into the fullness of life in his house.

Take a look at the following passages and consider what they say about welcoming – what does each passage tell us about God’s character, what commands or exhortations are there, how might you apply them today, practically in your church?

Leviticus 19:33-34; Luke 14:12-14; 15:1-7; Hebrews 13:2; Matthew 11:28-29; 25:31-46; Mark 9:36-37; 1 Peter 4:8-10; Acts 28:30-3; Romans 12:9-16

Pragmatic Reasons Why Welcoming Is Essential?

  1. It is a sign that points people to the gospel. Our God is a welcoming God. When we warmly and lovingly welcome people we demonstrate God’s love and point them to Jesus.
  2. People going into new and unfamiliar situations feel anxious and need to be put at ease. Have you ever been to a function where you knew no one – say a wedding or Christmas party? People attending church are in a very unfamiliar setting – even if they are used to the church they are not used to your church.
  3. Today’s society is highly mobile – 17% of Australians move every year, a further 39% move every 5 years. In churches it is not uncommon to find that 50% of the current members have been in the church for less than 5 years (NCLS). These people are looking not just for Christian input and fellowship but also for friendship and community. The same thing applies when people have other major changes in their lives – baby’s, marriage, moving, death, illness and hospitalisation, a job change or unemployment – all of these can open people up to be receptive to new ideas and new commitments. Often we find people in these circumstances rocking up to church.
  4. Each generation seeks different things – though that’s probably far too general a statement. For example, Gen X are apparently becoming disillusioned with the results of the ‘me’ generation – and many are revisiting old values – including the church. Denomination doesn’t matter – warmth, friendliness, relevance and ‘style’ do matter. They ask first “what will I get out of this for me?” before they ask any other question – does it meet their needs, and their families’, is it life affirming and positive. This is the supermarket generation – they shop around. Baby boomers might stick it out, Gen X may not. (This requires far more teasing out than one brief paragraph – but it’s worth understanding generational differences to consider what they are looking for in a church.)
  5. Churches grow from newcomers if they have good systems for not only accessing new people but also of welcoming them into the life of the church and helping them be and feel included. This sort of church asks questions like “What does it feel like to come here if you’ve never been before?” or “How can we make what we say or do more accessible to the non-churched person?” This means thinking outside of our own needs and desire – especially for comfort and the security of a non-changing environment and seeking the good of others.
  6. Broken relationships are affecting more and more people in our community – divorce, separation, abuse, and family breakdowns. The whole concept of ‘family’ has changed to accommodate the vast proportion of people who do not conform to the standard pattern of 50 and even 20 years ago. All this is a good thing – because the church is the community of the broken;

Matthew 5:3-6 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

We tend to forget! The church is not for the beautiful and rich but for the people who know they aren’t!

Welcoming – Sunday Services

We have a tendency to see welcoming as a small job – maybe the problem is the word ‘welcoming’. It’s far too limited when it is trying to describe one of the largest and most important ministries in the church. Welcoming is front line ministry – how people are greeted and dealt with as they arrive and on subsequent days and weeks is all-important. We want them to come here – we want them to hear the gospel and be converted, we want them to grow and to mature with us. Our task is to…

  • Welcome
  • Invite
  • Integrate

…new members into the life, joy and ministry of this church. This is especially true if they’re from the local community and the suburbs where we live and serve, or they have some connection with the church.

Welcoming is also more than those who are rostered on. I think every church needs welcomers rostered on. I guess we might call them ushers and greeters – they hand out books and literature, field questions, direct people to services and amenities and take up the collection. But welcoming is every active member’s task every week, and must be more than those who are rostered on if we want to really welcome people into our church community.

Important Steps to Welcoming

1.            Understand that welcoming – the role you have as a welcomer (whether rostered on or not) – is a vital ministry.

In which case we should be praying for the ministry we do and being prepared for it, spiritually and physically. Do you pray that you will have opportunities to welcome people and introduce them to your church? This is a Christian Ministry role – like all others we should have people committed to reading their Bibles and praying in the role. So how’s your spiritual walk going? Have you dressed appropriately for the task and for your church? Showered and shaved (blokes) or whatever it is you need to do to be attractive – you represent not only the church but also the gospel. Do you see the task as an important one worth spending time and energy on?

2.            Apply the BELL principle – Be Early, Leave Late – and be prepared.

Have a good rest the night before so that you’re not tired and grumpy at church (this is good advice in any case). Be early enough to get ready – books and papers in place and ready to catch everyone who comes in. and preparation means more than just the right things to hand out. Come early enough to clean up anything that is messy; arrange chairs or whatever is required, to get things in order, to find out what needs to be handed out. Early enough that you can set yourself and your family up in whatever position you wish to have and are ready for church yourselves.

3.            When people start arriving – old or new faces – be welcoming.

Seriously – it’s not that hard. A smile, a kind word, a joke (not at their expense), a firm but gentle handshake – all good stuff. But more than that – be aware of the people. Who are they – why are they here – who have they come with – are they locals or not, visitors or checking out the church? People come with all sorts of reasons uppermost in their minds and hearts. Some will come because a loved one has died and they don’t know what else to do – so how we greet that person will make a big difference. Problem is you can’t know – but you can be sensitive and watching. (See list below of some of the reasons people might walk in the door).

4.            With newcomers and visitors our task is to make them feel welcome and comfortable.

It’s the task of the gospel to make them feel uncomfortable. So they need somewhere to sit, a drink maybe, to know where the toilets and kitchen are. If they have children they need to know about Sunday school, crèche and the parent’s room. Even more important they need to know that their kids are welcome – so tell them. And not just tell them but welcome and pay attention to the kids as much as the adults. A kind word about kids will have a positive effect 1000’s of times greater than any other comment. A kind conversation to kids (not down to!!!!) will provide an incredible welcome. People love it when you acknowledge their children as worthwhile and valuable enough to talk to!

  • Offer to escort people to an appropriate seat – not right down the front, nor directly in the centre. They may refuse the help – but it’s unlikely. The best places for new comers are the sides and rear – not against the wall and not right at the back but in the congested areas. Try to seat them with similar people if you can – and introduce them to people who can look after them. After an appropriate time, you can say something like; “I’ll leave you in the capable hands of John” and then you can go do other things. Don’t dump them and run – you’re the only familiar face they have so far and John could be a mass murderer for all they know.
  • Offer them coffee and tea if it’s on before church. (If you want to get people to church early – put on great coffee and tea for people to pick up before church. What a great thing to be able to sit and relax at church with a cuppa before church starts!)
  • Point out where the toilets and facilities are.
  • Offer them the church literature – newsletter, brochures etc – gives them something to read in the sermon J!
  • Ensure you give them a communication card and pencil – ask them if they would fill that in so the leadership team can contact them during the week just to say hi. (What do you mean your church has no communication card?)
  • It can be worth pointing out the minister – ministers – but only if it fits in. You could say something like “Have you met our minister? That’s him with all the grey hair – if you like I could introduce you after church?” Easy!

5.            After the service it’s important to go back to them.

Ask them how they liked the service etc and ask them if they’d like to meet the minister. In almost all cases they will say yes – so set it up. But don’t cut and run – introduce them (use their names) and stick around so that the minister can move on without abandoning them.

6.            Make sure that they aren’t left totally lost and alone.

Especially getting morning tea/supper. It can be daunting getting to the coffee and tea – especially if you have people who are not intent on welcoming newcomers, so they stand and chat to the servers and get in the way. Help newcomers out. Offer to get them a cuppa, or to beat a path for them. Make sure they get something to drink and eat – the kitchen helpers will know where extra food is if it has run out.

7.            Try to notice they are leaving.

Recognition is a big deal – people want to come and be recognised as having value – including the fact that we enjoyed meeting them and look forward to seeing them again next week. If you’re not standing with them then pay attention to what they are up to and break off your own conversation and farewell them properly. Offer them your phone number and name if they have any questions during the week.

8.            Contact them during the following week.

Here’s where welcoming starts on the road to invitation and integration. If you’ve been welcoming on the weekend and struck up a bit of a repour with someone then the very best thing you can do is to contact them, either by phone or mail, just to say how enjoyable it was to meet them and to offer them your expertise in joining in with the life of the church – if you don’t feel like an expert then imagine how they feel.

In many churches this is done by the staff. Ask yourself – would you prefer a staff member (who gets paid to do his/her job) to contact you – or the person who was so friendly towards you (who doesn’t get paid but thought it would be nice to follow up anyway)? People expect the ministry team to make contact – and it’s worthwhile. What they don’t expect – and this will be a nice surprise – is that the people in the congregation care enough to make the effort as well.

  • It doesn’t have to be the phone conversation version of ‘war and peace’ – just a simple call to say that we noticed you and want to recognise you as valuable. For example;
  • “Hi John – it’s Peter from …………… Church – we met on Sunday morning. I just wanted to catch up with you and say if there was anything you needed or you wanted to ask anything just to give me a call. I hope you/am glad… you enjoyed the service. It would be great to see you and your family again next Sunday – our new assistant will be preaching and he’s pretty good…” etc!
  • Now the conversation might go on or it might not – it doesn’t really matter – what matters is that you – a real person rather than a minister has taken the time to call.

Stay tuned for Welcoming 3

A Welcoming Church 1

Making Church Welcoming

Every church thinks of themselves as open and welcoming to outsiders. It’s one of those ‘strengths’ that crops up whenever a church does a SWOT analysis – and from what I’ve seen it takes a pretty honest church to even contemplate that they may not be as open as they think. I guess we think naturally that being a Christian means being open to others – and if we enjoy our church (for most we wouldn’t go to church otherwise) and feel welcome and at home, then others should enjoy it too – and feel at home – and therefore it’s welcoming?!

What makes a church feel welcoming?

We feel we belong? We know people? People know us? We have a place, a role, a ministry? People know our names, smile at us, recognize us, make an effort to talk to us? We have a seat? We enjoy the style, respect the leaders, enjoy the format, find that it meets our perceived and actual needs?

We know what happens, the sort of service we will experience, the location of services, what to do at each part of a service, where the Sunday school is, or the toilets or the kitchen?

And realistically we would want to say that it extends beyond Sunday to the week – to groups, activities, membership roles, phone calls, meeting in coffee shops, shared experiences, family meals and activities. It’s about belonging – if we feel we belong then it feels welcoming.

If we think our church is welcoming, but there is no specific welcoming process, then it almost certainly feels welcoming to us because we belong. Not because it is welcoming to outsiders! We fit in – the homogenous unit principle (HUP) at work. The HUP in churches is about setting up churches that deal with specific groups – ethnic, racial, language, locality, social status etc – and only that group. Like attracting like! But it works naturally enough too – it feels welcoming – it feels like ‘home’ when the people in church are like us, share the same sorts of values and principles, where at least some are of a similar age or social standing – people we can readily identify with – and even more importantly we know them and they know us and we feel comfortable amongst the crowd, or we have a friends and acquaintances. Or we’ve been a member of the church for 10 or 20 or 60 years and of course it’s welcoming because to us its home?!

Why do so many visitors say churches are not welcoming?

Welcoming Stories

Jenny, a young woman visits a small village style church where the majority of folk have been attending for more than 10 years – and many much longer than that – a church that doesn’t get many visitors – no one talks to her except the minister and his family. She comes for a few weeks – no real change in the response – a few basic greetings, recognition – but no one really talks with her and gets to know her. She stops coming! Welcoming church?

Dianne, middle aged, fairly shy, and her husband and teenage sons start attending a new church where there is a large core group of friends – the first few weeks no one approaches them, despite a clear welcoming policy, because the minister and his wife talk to them. After a few weeks everyone leave them alone because they clearly are staying – and besides it’s a little hard talking to them because they’re shy. The family unit sticks together, they look happy – so we leave them be. They come and go with little interaction except the employed staff and their wives. Welcoming church?

Thomas, disabled man, makes the (considerable) effort to join a new church – the ministry team makes sure there is suitable space and access for the wheel chair – he’s introduced around the church – a few people make a fuss for a week or two – but after a while he is one of the crowd and everyone just assumes he feels welcome – after all he’s still coming! After a while – and he’s used to it taking a while – he stops coming because he doesn’t feel like he’s getting anywhere – even though the church has a reputation for being welcoming. Is it?

What would a welcoming church look like?

  • A welcoming church…
    • Is about hospitality, where the main group of existing members is hospitable towards all people—not just people like them.
    • Stays welcoming for the long term—not just the first time people come to church but the 50th and 100th. In many churches once we realize someone is sticking around we tend to leave them be and go back to our relationships—though some don’t even do that. It takes more than a quick hello once or twice, or showing people where the toilets are.
    • Is where the cliques (and yes every church has them) work hard at not letting that get in the way of bringing more people in. One example is a church where the members decide they will spend the first 15-20 min after a service talking to newcomers.
    • Is more than just 15 minutes after church on a Sunday. What has happened to inviting people home after church for coffee or lunch? Or inviting people to your Bible Study group or other ministry?

Why do outsiders come to church? What reason does a new person have to walk in the front door of your church?

For the most part people come through invitation and friendship. They will come because they know someone at your church – even if it’s the barest possible relationship. It’s pretty hard for people to just wander in with no prior contact at all, unless it’s a very large church where it would be impossible for any one person to have contact with everyone – a newcomer can blend in, be anonymous. Actually – plenty of regulars in large churches probably like that aspect too?!?!?

In my experience, often the people you see on a Sunday who just appear to rock up out of the blue, have actually spoken to a minister and been invited – as I said, the briefest of acquaintances. Which is why ministers and anyone who answers the phone in the church office, has to be on the ball – that phone call asking about service times is not an inconvenience, or something to get out of the way – that is the opportunity to welcome someone as a friend – ask their name, engage in conversation, explain who you are, tell them that you’d love to see them and get to know them, and be ready to do so on Sunday. Instead of 30 seconds just telling them the info they are after spend 5 minutes having a chat. That person, as long as they turn up, is half-way welcomed before they set foot in the door… as long as you follow it up.

I would say people come to church mostly because of a relationship. They stay short term because of acquaintances and familiar friendly faces. They stay long term because of friendships. Steve Abbot wrote an evangelism book years ago – Friendship Evangelism – the perfect title for church welcoming. When you are getting ready for church are you thinking and praying that you might have opportunities to befriend people for Jesus? You should!

Whose task should it be to welcome people?


Here’s where I think bluntness helps. When you go to church—don’t sit down waiting for the service to start, unless there’s only a minute or two to go. Mill about, make conversation, look for newbies, befriend them (don’t swamp them), make conversation, invite them home for Sunday lunch (be prepared with plenty of basic food ready to roll before you come to church) or meet them for a coffee during the week, invite them to Bible Study—invite them to sit with you – kick the kids out to the next row.

Can’t do it? Why are you at church?

It’s the minister’s job!? You’re kidding, right?

Why are you at church – for yourself or to serve?

Try this quick quiz!

When you first attended your church you would have gained some impressions of the place – the welcome, the people, the style, the cliques, morning tea, people’s attitudes towards you and your family, how quickly you were accepted, whether the church was attractive, open, airy etc. You might have had impressions about cleanliness, upkeep, general care, ease of accessing information, who you had to see to get involved or join groups etc.

  • Write down what your impressions were – whatever you can remember.
  • When did you start attending your church?
  • Did you come on your own or with a spouse, family or friends?
  • Why did you start at this particular church? Did someone invite you?
  • Why did you come back after the first week?
  • Why did you stay after the first few weeks?
  • Were you new to church in general or did you come from another church? If you came from another church what was your involvement at that church?
  • When you first started, how did the experience compare with other churches you’d attended (if any)?
  • If you were describing your church to people who have never been there, and who were thinking of attending, what would you say about the welcome they would receive – what key words would you use?

Stay tuned for Welcoming 2!

Getting Ready for Church

You’re dressed, kids are dressed, you’ve scoffed down breakkie, had a coffee to kick start the day, brushed your teeth, the kids are in the car—but you’ve forgotten something. It’s on the tip of your tongue, but what is it? Then it hits you—in the rush to get ready for church you’ve forgotten to get ready for church!


When you go to a restaurant for dinner you get ready—bookings, clothes, money, baby sitters and so on. You check out the restaurant and make sure it’s up to scratch. Read a few reviews, ask a few friends. Or the movies—you check out what you want to see, read a review or two—usually you go with some understanding of what the movie is about.

So how do you get ready for church? It’s more than clothes and breakfast, making sure you’ve got your offertory money and your warmest jumper—churches can purchase functional heaters – who knew?? Getting ready for church should be a spiritual personal preparation.

If the preacher turned up unprepared we’d be justifiably a bit miffed. Once maybe?? Regularly—we’d be asking all sorts of important questions. But the reality is all of us should be getting ready for church—spiritually. For example we read in Colossians;

”Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)

We can come without preparation, and we can minister without preparation but if it’s important then we should be prepared. If we come together to teach and admonish each other—that is to encourage each other to grow and mature as God’s people and to do that in the name of Jesus surely the best thing to do—at the very least—would be to pray before we come to church about the people we will be meeting with, the opportunities we might have, or the ones we might make intentionally. I hope that you are praying regularly for our preachers and leaders as they serve us before God—and especially on Sundays before and during church—that they will teach the truth with integrity and honesty, that they will lead us with joy and humility, that the Lord will use them to encourage and enthuse our churches. We are told in God’s word that we “do not have, because we do not ask God.” if we want a church where there is love and joy and peace, where all are welcome and cared for, where the word of Jesus is preached with passion—then we need to ask.

And there are other ways to prepare for church. If we are committed to learning from the sermons and preaching then why not read the passage and pray about it before church—the passages and topics are usually published each week for the coming week. What about bringing your own Bible and a pen ready to make notes—in the margins of your Bible even? What about ringing friends you haven’t seen at church for a few weeks and seeing if everything’s OK—and then pray for them and be ready to greet them at church. What about inviting people to church—that really does take preparation, prayer, commitment and a good relationship—who can you be inviting and praying for? Any Sunday is a good day to invite others—how can you prepare for them to come? You could ring a few Sunday School teachers and let them know you are praying for them—and then do so—or you could offer to help—pack up, set up, teach???

We could go on and on—there are all sorts of possible ways to get ready for church—if we focus on service and being prepared to serve then God will open up all sorts of opportunities, all sorts of ways for us to prepare for church.