Visitors or Guests? How Warm is our Welcome? Dr. Craig Kraft
/ Monday, January 4, 2021
We all get to visit a lot of places.
Sometimes, when we are not in a pandemic, we visit exotic vacation destinations around the world. More commonly, we visit offices, restaurants, stores, recreational facilities, the home of friends, or even a church.
The way we are greeted in each of these locations has a significant impact on how comfortable we are and how likely we are to return.
A Dentist Visit
I assume that most people don’t enjoy going to the dentist. I had to visit my dentist recently, and I have to admit that my two appointments to have crowns installed were very pleasant (Thank you, Dr. Zastre, Smilebrite Family Dental).
I look forward to going to my dentist.
All of the staff do a fantastic job of welcoming me and seeing to my comfort, from the moment I enter the door, to the time I pay the bill and make my next appointment. I am not just a visitor here; I am a guest.
A Church Visit
In my work, I visit a lot of churches. On a visit to a church last year, I had the opportunity to reflect on the experience of being a tourist in a new location.
How do you like to be treated when you enter someplace new?
Visitors usually come on their own and are only around for a short visit to an event or location.
When a church views new people as visitors:
- The focus tends to be on the event.
- We are likely to welcome them and focus our intentions on helping them to have a good experience with us.
- We may offer refreshments, information, and provide orientation to our facilities and services so they may be aware of what we have to offer.
- We may have a “Visitors Centre” where they can obtain more information about our church and our ministries.
In the end, we hope that they had a good experience. I call this being “foyer friendly.” Foyer friendly churches do a good job of facilitating pleasant visits.
How might our experience be different if the church treats us as a guest?
- Guests are usually invited and welcomed personally.
- We tend to focus more attention on the guest than the event.
- When a guest arrives at our home, for a short visit or a more extended stay, we focus on their comfort. We will probably offer food, a comfortable place to sit down, entertainment, and friendship.
- Hosting a guest is about entering into a relationship with someone where their needs and comfort become our priority.
- Some churches have a “Guest Center” where a new person is invited to become a participant in relationships.
One day our churches will reopen.
As we prepare for that eventuality, churches would do well to discern the difference between treating newcomers as visitors or guests. Friends, family, neighbors, and tourists should be welcomed into our congregations as honored guests. We want them to have a positive and pleasant experience, but more importantly, we want them to become connected and return. We must reach out to new people and extend hospitality and relationships.
One of the sins in our western culture today is that we have allowed ourselves to become so busy, we do not have time to welcome people into our lives or our fellowship. Carroll goes so far as to say that failure to practice hospitality toward strangers might be a “rebellion against God”.1
As you begin to think about going back to church, keep this in mind.
Make space for new people in your life. Create opportunities for people to become personally engaged with your church rather than passing through as spectators.
Dr. Craig Kraft is the Executive Director of Outreach Canada. Craig and his wife Heather have four adult sons. They were involved in pastoral ministry in western Canada for fifteen years before becoming missionaries with OC. Craig served with OC in southern Africa and now leads the ministry in Canada. After returning from Africa, Craig assisted with the formation of the OC Global Alliance, a partnership of over one thousand missionaries working around the world. Craig is a graduate of Northwest Baptist Seminary at ACTS and a graduate of Asia Graduate School of Theology with a Doctor of Intercultural Studies. His study has focused on diaspora missiology in Canada. His dissertation explores the potential for revitalizing Canadian churches through the practice of biblical hospitality with refugees and immigrants.
1 (Carroll, Daniel. The Bible and Borders. 2020)