Ok, so I had this thought the other day after attending one of the many various services I have been to here in Finland. It has to do with greeting people.
I don’t think anyone would argue with the idea that greeting people is important. There’s all sorts of ideas on how this is done, however, typically greeting people ends at the front door and then a new comer is either on their own to find a seat in the church, or is guided to a seat and then left alone for the service.
I wonder what would happen if a church did something that could only be described as radical hospitality.
What would happen if the church had the people welcoming visitors at the front door and they ask a new person if they would like someone to be available in their pew to help them/guide them/whatever you want to call this, through the service. This would be someone who would stay with the visitor through the service.
Now let me clarify – I’m not talking about a person who is hounding the visitor. I’m talking about a member of the congregation who is in the same pew and answers questions for the visitor about any part of the service. They can offer as little or as much assistance as the visitor would want.
For example, some people may just appreciate having someone sitting in the pew with them and not ask them anything. Others may have never been to church before and ask a bunch of questions about all sorts of things – things like, where do I find the songs, when do I stand, can I go up at communion time, what is communion, etc?
Now I don’t suggest that everyone will want someone to “guide” them through the service, but can you imagine the message this sends to visitors about how important they are when your church is willing to invest people and time in them right off the bat.
I don’t know of any church that does what I’ve just described. I’ve experienced it on some occasions here in Finland, mostly because the pastor knew I was coming and knew that having a translator available for me would be helpful. And it was helpful, and I felt valued too. I can imagine that others may feel the same way.
I would love to hear from any church that does this or something similar to this. Please share your stories, why your church started doing this, what the effect has been, how people receive it, etc. I would love to hear from you.