Saturday, May 08, 2004

visitors and safe space

I am pondering writing some “worship leader guidelines” for how we treat visitors. How do we ensure by the words we say that church is a “safe space” for first timers?

1. Introduce ourselves – “my name is Steve …”
2. Give visitors verbal freedom to just watch – “If you don’t want to participate then just say, “no thanks”” OR “The offering is for those glad of the vision of this church”

additions, deletions, suggestions welcome …

Posted by steve at 02:14 PM


  1. looks interesting … can I get a copy once you are done. Hmm … I should contribute as well 🙂

    Comment by Sivin Kit — May 8, 2004 @ 6:18 pm

  2. I don’t know how you could say this one… but, whatabout something about when to stand.

    Some church unfamiliar people who have come to northern are uncomfortable when they stand at the wrong time. There seems to be a unwritten rule in churches that when the worship leader says: “please stand to sing…” they actually mean please stand after the musical intro.

    Comment by phil — May 8, 2004 @ 8:39 pm

  3. I do know what you mean, Phil. I’ve been in services where everyone was bobbing up and down like yoyos, and unfortunately, as the sometimes-guest-speaker, I was right at the front, so I couldn’t even watch everyone in front of me for clues. I hated it, it was like being in on a meeting of a secret society, and I felt really excluded by the unwritten “rules”.

    Just trying to think of a time when it might have been relevant at Graceway, though. I think we’re a bit more laid back than that. It’s the first church where I’ve felt really comfortable about doing whatever seems most comfortable at the time. I don’t think we have a formalised “now we’re gonna stand for this and sit for that” kind of structure to our service. We’re a bit more fluid. How to put that into words as part of a welcome, tho, is interesting, as it’s gonna be up to me tomorrow night…..

    Comment by Larraine — May 8, 2004 @ 11:26 pm

  4. i think it also never hurts to stop and talk about the meaning of some of the things that are being sung. and i think it serves the regulars in helping them to focus on what it is they are singing, not just gettin into the groove(at least i know it helps me to focus)

    Comment by jason — May 10, 2004 @ 5:07 am

  5. Sorry – only just discovered this thread – I like it
    I’ve got a couple of don’ts:

    DON’T ask “all the visitors to raise their hands” and then hand them literature – thats cheap
    DON’T ask people to turn to greet someone beside them or tell them they look good – you don’t know why they came today or how they feel – some people have to work at just getting out of bed – some people fight just to breath (it might sound melodramatic but I have known people who are this bruised – the last thing they need is some glib, obligatory greeting)

    And I reckon you need a rule that says the pastor can’t talk to the visitors until at least 3 other people have (kind of) see if you can catch my drift:

    Of course the pastor is going to greet the visitor – it’s his job – I think it’s way better when total strangers with no obligation walk up and say hi to you – just cause they wanted to

    Back to the DON’Ts – DON’T start with “so what do you do?”

    OK – and a couple of DO’s

    DO: give people something to do – I remember when I met Steve for the very first time – his first question was “You any good with a gluestick?”

    Straight away he had me gluing images of Jesus to papermen he had cut out. It was cool

    DO: tell people to do what they feel – including doing nothing – I like Larraines comments about feeling out of place and Steve’s comment about the offering – it’s for those who want to participate

    DO: invite people to something – anything – and probably not church based – “We’re going to the zoo after church – wanna come?”


    DO: Only what you mean

    Phew bit of a rant – hope thats OK

    Comment by Randall — May 14, 2004 @ 9:07 am

  6. thanks randall – interested in your feedback re been given a job – the seeker church in the US says visitors like to hide – your experience is saying the opposite – is this a generational thing – we want to be involved?

    Comment by steve — May 14, 2004 @ 2:59 pm

  7. Well, for our service, we’ve given our worship leaders suggested “scripts” to use:

    For the collection, we’ve used something like:
    “God’s Word instructs us that the one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly; but the one who sows generously will reap generously. So let us sow generously into God’s kingdom knowing that we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Now, if you are new this morning or not a Christian, we do not expect you to give, so as the bags come, just let them pass by. However, if you are a believer, this is our privilege and joy to sow generously into God’s kingdom, so let us give with glad and cheerful hearts.”

    We also open up our worship time with meditation time (with the following flashing on the projector:)

    This morning’s worship is where we, the “Body of Christ”, have come to encourage one another, to know and experience God, and to make Him known.
    Sit next to someone.
    This is a community of grace. Engage in worship
    in any way you feel comfortable.
    May your hearts (and hands and voices andÂ…) be prepared to worship.

    We’ve further explained things and encouraged people to observe, and we’ve been moving away from just doing rituals or forms that would make a newcomer feel like they were at a secret society meeting.

    We used to have new people stand up and introduce themselves – and then everyone would clap – I hope we’re through with that one for sure.

    Comment by Dan — May 17, 2004 @ 6:56 pm

  8. Hi Steve, I’m not sure if its generational. I think I came as someone who wanted to be there – who was curious but also comfortable in church environments.

    Had I been new to church environments I might not have felt so comfortable being included. SO i’m not sure if it’s generational.

    For me: I spent time in another city in NZ (I won’t name it cos I don’t think it’s city related so I don’t want to colour it that way) and I tried 5 or 6 different churches where (I am not exaggerating) not a single person acknowledged my presence. I wasn’t greeted. I wasn’t approached – it was heinous.

    My first visit to Graceway was a stark contrast – I was surrounded by warm genuine people who were genuinely glad I was there and one crazy guy (;oP) even wanted me to help him glue stuff – it was remarkable how welcomed I felt.

    Graceway made me a little uncomfortable (in a good way) because the nature of the service is interactive – I couldn’t passively participate – and all who attend it understand that – they genuinely contribute to the worship and service and it wouldn’t be the same if they (personally) were absent… that’s a remarkable scenario…

    I think I’m on two different tangents here…

    Back to answering your question: Generational: I don’t think so… altho I think, perhaps, the ‘younger’ generation of people are used to an interactive world – they want to touch things and experience things that affect them personally … (in case you can’t tell I’m thinking this out as I go…)

    Hmmm., yeah I’m not sure it’s generational. I personally have always found the larger churches with really high quality worship teams etc a little hard – I have always found it more difficult to meet God at church than at home or in the bush or just quietly anywhere by myself… because frankly it feels like I’m not needed… they could carry on without me and it wouldn’t matter.

    Perhaps I’m egotistical or a control freak? Could be – I’ve been many things ;o)

    I think that night at Graceway I found a group of people who were all individually taking repsonsibility for wanting to meet God and happy to let me do the same in my own way… and so I was able to have my individuality within the context of the corporate… I’ve sensed that several times on my visits there.

    Sounds like a Panacea and I’m not trying to paint it as that… but what I’m trying to say is in there somewhere…

    I’m not sure if I’ve answered the question: I’m not even sure I’ve made any sense…

    Comment by Randall — May 20, 2004 @ 12:59 pm

  9. Quick P.S: I think perhaps I’m struggling to answer this because like so many of us I’m not often asked to think about why I go to church.

    I know the sunday school answer “Do not give up meeting together…”, “they gathered together to break bread…” “Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs…”

    But I don’t think anyone has ever asked me to think about why I do it…

    I think many of us in my generation and older don’t think we’re allowed to… or worse – we don’t think that if we really think about it and have a reason that it would make any difference anyway…

    Thanks Steve… this has really got me thinking… ;o)

    Comment by Randall — May 20, 2004 @ 1:03 pm

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