Church #21. Meet Terri Landers. She is the solo pastor of Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church in Richmond Hill, Georgia. With an average worship attendance of 70, Spirit of Peace is a mission start congregation.
Churches sometimes make the wrong assumptions with visitors. Even when things seem clearly marked or highly visible, it can be hard for visitors to find their way around a church or a hymnal. Spirit of Peace has found a rhythm of hospitality in connecting with their visitors. It all begins with the first step out of the car.
Step 1: Their Parking Lot flows with one way in and one way out. It was even easy to find a spot (even though the sanctuary was packed!). Not every church can change the layout of their parking lot but keep the closest spots to the front door open for visitors. Encourage members to park a row or two away.
Step 2: Greeters are the frontline to welcoming new people. One thing I noticed while visiting is that we never had to open a door. There were people stationed at the front door and in the narthex to open the door for us. By doing this, we knew exactly where to go as we were shuffled from one person to the next.
Step 3: The Pastor at 15 minutes beforehand was situated at the narthex door. She was highly visible with a smile. Everyone who walked through the door was greeted with eye contact, a happy face and a handshake.
Step 4: Ushers were there to help people find their way in the sanctuary. By 10 am, the service was ready to start and the sanctuary was full. New people arriving a few minutes late had help from the ushers to find a place to sit.
Step 5: Start with Prayer. Spend 2-3 minutes taking prayer requests at the beginning of the service. Include the joys and pains of the people and then pray together. Depending on size, not every church can do this, but it was a powerful way to start worship.
Step 6: Practice the Three Minute Rule. After the service, people lingered over coffee and my favorite, Krispy Kreme donuts. During this time, people weren’t shy in greeting me or my teenagers! (Did that sink in? People talked to my teenagers.) They spent at least 3 minutes with us asking questions and getting to know us.
Why does hospitality matter? It matters because of Luke 10:38-42 when Jesus visits Martha and Mary. This story models for us on how to include visitors into the church. It starts with the opening of the door to welcome Jesus and followed with conversation. Our churches can set a similar rhythm of hospitality too by opening the door, welcoming people in, and engaging them with conversation.
For more information on this story, please contact Terri Landers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 912-727-5608.