Our largest number of first time guests checks out our church on August 17 and 24. On August 17, age graded classes promote in SMBS. We will be recognizing educators and our special partnership with Sabal Palm Elementary. On August 24, new college students beginning the fall semester arrive en masse. These are great Sundays to spotlight what normally should happen each Sunday. They receive a friendly welcome from greeters, ushers, and you. Each of us is responsible to welcome others in a warm, friendly way. It’s part of Christian hospitality, but it’s also the practical reality of being a downtown church. Hospitality doesn’t begin once someone gets inside the building. After someone has checked out the website and driven downtown, greeting begins at the sidewalk. First timers aren’t accustomed to the parking scenarios, multiple entrances, and class locations. I can’t tell you the number of people who walk into the “Welcome Center,” and ask me where the Sanctuary is. What we take for granted, a newcomer does not recognize. Remember your first time trying to navigate TMH, and that’s what a guest usually feels like here.
How can you help? Gary McIntosh suggests two things that every person can do to help us “guesterize” the church. We practiced these on Sundays: the 5 minute rule and the 10 foot rule. As you greet people during the welcome, look around for folks you don’t recognize. Then after worship services, take 5 minutes and find that person you don’t recognize. Most of the time, that person will not recognize you either; and there’s a good chance that this person will be new(er). Even long timers like to be noticed. Second, use the 10 foot rule. If someone passes within 10 feet of you, stop, look them in the eye, and say hello. If they look lost, ask if there is anything you can do to help. If a parent is carrying a baby in a car seat up the hill, offer to carry the diaper bag.
Our ushers and greeters are trained to welcome people and connect folks to Roy Story and Hannah
Singletary. They can usually find someone to escort new folks to classes. The connect center has information to guide people to classes, and Sharon Cawthorne is ready each Sunday at the front desk to locate rooms for folks. On August 17, and on every third Sunday of the month, First Step meets in the welcome center. This is a great starting point for guests if you bring someone with you on that day.
On Sunday, we tried the 5 minute rule and 10 foot rule. Two people told me that they walked up to each other on their way to SMBS. Guess what? A retired third grade teacher was reunited with her newly retired former student. Keep it up; more teachers and students are on the way.