Before I begin, here is a scripture on the basis of which I will let you read on...1 Corinthians 9:19-23
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
I felt it was important to pass on a few tips about what works well for visitors to churches, in-particullar those visiting from what has been termed ‘Generation Y’. Many refer to this as the lost generation; this lost generation is known to be those born in or around the year 2000, people with the world at their fingertips whose social interaction normally takes place in front of a computer screen. Let’s face it, many people are lost in their generation but we now have to think like evangelists, be creative and figure out how best to welcome people like this into our churches IF they happen to wander in. My personal preference is that we go to the streets, share the powerful Gospel message of Christ, heal the sick in public then they will run to the Church, but this blog’s focus is somewhat different.
A practice that happens a lot in churches all around the world is the traditional welcome. Now, if you are a pastor reading this I want to make it clear that I love the Church, this is why I am committed to helping you build a strong evangelistic shop front for those visiting. I often visit church in many countries and on many continents and have noticed that nearly every time I am either asked to put my hand up as a new visitor to receive a welcome pack, or I am inundated with people that come to sit next to me and ask me lots of random questions.
This is a revelation about generation Y, they do not like to be pestered! Church is a place where most people come for the first occasion to ‘spy out the land’ (to use a spiritual term), they simply wish to sit down quietly, watch, take it in and then make an informed decision about their next move. Welcoming people is an art, you don’t want to look desperate whilst at the same time you want them to feel at home. It's a challenge for man-hopefully this blog will help! Let’s talk about the welcome pack as some of you may be questioning me saying “It’s nice to give a gift away”, well, of course it is, but the truth be known that by asking a ‘new person’ to raise their hand so that they can get a gift makes them stand out from the crowd, as soon as their hand is up a ‘friendly steward’ comes over and gives them a brightly coloured bag which to them actually says “Now everyone knows that I am new”. All of a sudden their attention is diverted from the worship or what is happening to thinking “They are going to come up and speak to me again and I don’t know what to say”. My advice is not to give a gift of any description to new comers in church, especially when they open the bag and find an information card, a pencil, a chocolate bar and maybe if you're in a tropical climate a bottle of water. If it was me and I was from generation Y I would want an i’tunes voucher or something that I can actually make use of in my day to day life. You see we have to stop thinking about how ‘WE’ as the Church can please our visitors, we actually have to think “If I was a visitor, what would I like”; Would I like to be asked lots of questions about my life from a stranger? would I like to be hugged by a stranger? Would I like any form of physical contact even from a stranger? Well, the answer to generation Y normally is ‘no’, they simply want a short acknowledgement, to sit down and take it all in. Of course they will then go away and post on Facebook about their experience and ultimately will make their mind up as a result of their friends' feedback, unless of course they are radically touched by the Holy Spirit in the service.
One final point is about information. Whenever we do an alter call in church it is so important to connect with those that have made a decision, to offer prayer or support, but here is one thing that we should never do-- ask for information! Now you now think i’m completely crazy as surely all evangelists want new believers to be discipled, the answer is of course I do, but there are ways to do things and this in my view is not one. To someone from generation Y, asking for information in a church means this; “They are going to bombard me with direct mail, e-blasts, find me on Facebook (look at all my naughty pictures from my drinking days), text me, find my home, visit me and ask me for money”…..Can you see this train of thought? After someone makes a decision by all means connect but don’t have them stand at the back of the church to complete the information cards, look for them and find them to see if they need anything, but don’t pen them into a corner and add pressure, it will frighten them away before they have even left the building!
A final thought, be natural. To really build a Church of solid bible believing, Holy Spirit- filled new Christians please know that you need the evangelists gifting, it is not only about preaching the Gospel on the streets, it is about making an environment where the Holy Spirit can move uninterrupted in the lives of those that venture in. I hope that this helps you very much as you see His Kingdom grow.