This is a practical post that could be considered part two or a continuation of this post: “Does your church make people jump through hoops? Stop it!” or perhaps this one: Alone in the Church. While there is some legitimacy in expecting people to put forth effort to integrate into the church, I think things have gone awry in some churches. It seems that personal outreach, shepherding care, and hospitality has disappeared or become scarce. Churches are filled with lonely people or people who fall through the cracks for various reasons. In this post, I want to share some practical ways to reach out to others within the church walls.
- Pray for perception. Pray for spiritual eyesight to notice the people on the sidelines, the lonely, or those not “plugged in” to the life of the church for whatever reasons. Pray for the heart of a shepherd.
- At church on Sunday, instead of making a beeline for your friends and remaining in a huddle talking with them – make an effort to look around the sanctuary. Be observant. If you’ve never done this, you may want to “observe” for 2 or 3 weeks. You’d be surprised at how much you can notice simply through observation! Not only will you begin to notice people who sit all alone or just look nervous, you’ll also notice how cliquey the sanctuary can appear – lots of people in groups talking.
- Take some action. Approach some of the people that you’ve noticed on the sidelines. Just sit down next to them and say something like: “Hi! I don’t think we’ve met. My name is Laura. What is your name?”. You could do this on your own or with your spouse. Hopefully this will naturally get a conversation going. Make an effort to remember their name and any other details you learn about them. Yes, I know, remembering names can be hard! It is okay to write things down. After your conversation when you are back at your seat, jot down their name and any other details on a piece of paper.
- Now…Be on the lookout for them the following week! Approach them again and address them by name, and ask them about something you’d learned about them the week before. “How’s your college class going?” or “Did you get through your tough week at work?” Etc.
Here are several ideas for taking things a step further and helping the person get to know other people in the church besides you.
- Now that you are learning a little about the person, introduce them to someone else in the church. Bring them over before or after the service. “Hey! I thought you might like to meet Dawn and Bill.” Perhaps introduce them to someone they share something in common with. If they are a empty nest couple, bring over another empty nest couple and introduce them. If the person’s occupation is a nurse, introduce them to another nurse who attends the church. Etc.
- Give them a personal invite to a church activity. Offer to save a seat for them, or meet them at the door when they arrive for the activity, or even pick them up. (It can be intimidating to show up for an activity when you don’t know anyone!)
- Invite them to your house for dinner or invite them to meet you for coffee at a local coffee house. You could do this one-on-one with them, but inviting another person/couple/family along can be a good idea as well. Of course, let them know you are inviting someone else so they are not surprised. This can be an ideal way for them to get to know you and another person/family from the church too. In the casual atmosphere of your home or meeting for coffee, it is easier to get to know someone. And the next Sunday at church, they will hopefully feel more at ease because they will recognize some people in the service instead of feeling so isolated.
I hope these ideas may have been helpful. This is definitely going to be a series of several posts. I also want to write on hospitality, and on being a shepherd. Look for those in the next few days.
Next post here. On being a “shepherd”…