by Peggy Hahn, LEAD Executive Director

As we prepare for Christmas, it’s a good time to remember that what we say matters.

I visit congregations from different denominations all across the country. In response to experiences that have been repeated over and over, I want to share these 6 tips for welcoming new people to follow Christ in your unique community.

  1. Talk with your regular worship attendees about this being a season of intentional hospitality. This means sitting toward the front and center so visitors don’t have to be ushered to the front because members have filled all the seats in the back.
  2. Words of inclusive welcome need to be spoken early in the liturgy. Think about: at the door when people come in, before the sharing of the peace, when you offer the invitation to the table… Closing announcements are too late.
  3. Pictures speak too. Images of all white people may feel welcoming to insiders, but not expanding images beyond a white icon of Jesus and all white people in printed material or on slides (if you use them) is shutting the door on the neighbors and the world.
  4. Every time before communion, clearly state the availability of the wine / juice, bread / gluten free bread options, provide clarity on who is welcome at the table, and let people know how to navigate movement (ushers who can help may be as important as words). While this may feel like a distraction for frequent worshipers, it is life-giving for those risking a visit.
  5. Using language that offers a wider view of God, rather than representing God as he or singing songs that only offer God as a male, king, father, provides a fuller connection to God in worship.
  6. Make sure the music, slides (if you use them), and musicians are in sync so that what we see on the screen or in the bulletin matches what the musicians play and we sing. This makes a big difference and lets everyone participate.

But most important, talk to me. If you care about my life and wonder what got me in the room, everything else is reduced in magnitude. Love does conquer all.