A welcoming community

This may sound strange to you, but I was pretty nervous the first few times I went to church. I became a Christian during my first year at university. My Christian friends at uni encouraged me to find a church to attend. I asked, “How do I find a good church?”. Their response, “Look for somewhere that teaches the Bible well and that welcomes you”.

I started going to a local church. I recognised a few people from the neighbourhood, but I didn’t know anyone. For the first month, I arrived late and I was the first person to leave. Then one week, a guy stopped me before I left and introduced himself to me. We got chatting and a few more people joined the conversation. They invited me to grab McDonald’s after the service with them. The following Sunday, I was invited to someone’s home for dinner. I stayed at that church for years. Some of my best friends come from that church.

The apostle Paul told the church in Rome, “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7). Welcoming people is a demonstration of the gospel. Think of the people Jesus welcomed in his ministry: the moral and social outsiders, the tax collectors and prostitutes, the Samaritan woman. Think of our spiritual situation. We don’t deserve God’s favour. We can’t earn it. We are spiritual reprobates, but Jesus has opened his arms to us, welcoming us into a relationship with him, showing us grace. We welcome because Jesus has first welcomed us.

We welcome one another because Jesus has welcomed us

We want St Andrew’s to be a welcoming community, whether you’ve been here for decades, or it’s your first time and you’re exploring faith or looking for a new church home. We try to do things to welcome people and help them to feel connected. We have a great team of welcomers who provide a friendly face and help if needed, the greeting time during each service, there’s newcomers’ lunches, the Partnership course, weekly refreshments after the 8.30am service, monthly morning teas after the 9.30am and 11.30am services, and regular dinners after the 5pm service.

But being a welcoming community is not just about structures and volunteers. We want everyone at St Andrew’s to be a welcomer. Yes, welcoming people sounds daunting. Maybe you’re shy or an introvert. Maybe you feel uncomfortable about initiating conversations with people that you don’t know. But once you start the habit of having conversations with new people, you find it becomes easier.

So here are two encouragements. First, make it your aim to talk to someone that you don’t know after the Sunday service. Introduce yourself to the person you’re sitting next to. Ask them what they found helpful about the service. One of the things that most encourages me is seeing people after the service talking and praying with one another. Second, practice hospitality. It’s great when people have a meal after church. It’s an opportunity to make introduce people to others, make connections, and deepen relationships. 

Let’s all be welcomers. We welcome one another because Jesus has welcomed us.