No church is automatically friendly. Especially not to outsiders coming in.
In some places, friendliness is harder than others. Like where I live, in Orange County California.
The Orange County population is so varied, so new and so busy, we don't develop relationships without being very intentional about it. Even in church.
The good news is that most people who attend church do so for spiritual reasons. But the reason they choose one church over another church is often about personal relationships.
People usually visit a church because a friend invited them. And when they choose to stay it’s because they’ve made friends there.
Friendly Churches are No Mistake
It’s often easier to find a church that preaches the Bible, has good worship and offers excellent child care than it is to find a church where we can make genuine, lasting friendships.
Genuine friendships are becoming more rare – and thus, of greater perceived value – than any other aspect of modern church life.
If we want to bring people in and keep them coming to church, we need to turn up the friendliness quotient.
The G.I.F.T. Plan for Friendlier Churches
One of the simple things that has helped our church become friendlier and more welcoming is something I call the G.I.F.T. Plan.
G.I.F.T. stands for Greet, Introduce, Follow up, and Thank.
Every week, we encourage our church members, and especially our leaders, to do at least one of the following steps:
1. GREET someone you’ve never met before.
Get out of your comfort zone. Find someone whose name you don't know and learn it. Welcome them if they're new. Discover something about them.
Get to know them if they've been around for a while, but you just haven't met yet. Or offer to sit with them if they came to church alone.
2. INTRODUCE people to each other.
After meeting someone, make sure they meet others, too. Connect people who have something in common.
Introduce a first time guest to the pastor. A young person to the youth leader. Kids and their parents to the children's ministries director. And so on.
3. FOLLOW UP on someone you met recently.
Find that person you met a week or two ago and say 'hi' again. Call them by name. Engage in further conversation. Include them in your group of friends.
4. THANK someone who did something you appreciate.
Every church has people who volunteer their time and efforts with very little, if any appreciation shown to them.