Churches need to be wary of two extremes regarding their friendliness.
First is the church “gauntlet.” The gauntlet is set up when a church desires so much to exude a friendly demeanor that they place a gaggle of people at the entry point. One or two genuinely friendly folk can do a great deal to express a friendly atmosphere. An overload of welcoming people, no matter how well intentioned, can be intimidating to first-time guests.
If guests to our church don’t think we’re friendly, we aren’t. — Gary Mcintosh
Second is to be overly familiar. There’s a difference between being friendly and being familiar. When I visit someplace new I am not ready to tell people everything about me, nor do I want to know everything about them. Too much information, too soon, results in a high level of discomfort. People who welcome others need to learn to express openness without eliciting an expectation of transparency. Consider these opening questions: What brings you to our church? How did you find out about us? Is this your home area? Would you like a cup of coffee? Is there anything I can do to assist you?
Phil Stevenson, 5 Things Anyone Can Do to Help Their Church Grow, You Can! (Indianapolis, IN: WPH, 2007), 31–32.
I have just completed a series of lessons based on becoming a welcoming church. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.