Recently I was in a conversation with a family who has been around Ashworth for about four years. I asked the wife/mom a question, “Your family came to Ashworth for the first time on an Easter Sunday. Why did you come back?” There was a pause and look of deep thought, and I said I would get back with her later.
A few days later, she came to me and told me she had an answer. She said she came back because of the two sisters who had sat in front of her. We identified these sisters as Leslie Roggio and Stephanie Finney. What made the difference for this family was the two women turning around and talking to her. She said they expressed a genuine interest in her and her family and made her feel welcomed.
Sometimes we try so hard to impress people. We dress up. We serve a particular food. We decorate a certain way. We perform a big gesture. In doing all these things, sometimes we can forget that it isn’t usually in the grandiose gestures that we get people’s attention. It is in the simple things.
A friendly smile. A warm greeting. An interest in who they are and their story. Helping them to know where to go by showing them and not just pointing the way. Sitting next to them instead of our usual spot so they don’t feel isolated and alone.
The amazing thing about these gestures is that they don’t cost a thing. Yes, we can spend money on popcorn and movies to create environments to meet our neighbors (and we will on May 17 when we show The Incredibles 2 on the church lawn with free popcorn and soda). We can create family-friendly environments where parents and children can work together doing craft projects, singing songs, and eating together (and we will for the final Create Place before the summer break on May 8).
But nothing can replace common courtesy, genuine interest, and concern, and a word aptly spoken. As we read in Proverbs 16:24, “Kind words are like honey-sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” And in Proverbs 18:4, “A person’s words can be life-giving water; words of true wisdom are as refreshing as a bubbling brook.”
Easter Sunday we had the privilege of seeing 83 visitors in our worship services. Of these, 32 were here for the very first time. I hope we will always see our guests not as outsiders disrupting the status quo but as potential and future friends and family who can be and will be a vital part of our church community.
And who knows, maybe all it takes to encourage them to move from guests to family is a kind word and a genuine interest in who they are and what God is doing in their life. That’s what happened four years ago with the Brown family. Maybe this year God will use you to welcome someone else into the church family.