Visitors? Do pastors and congregations do all they can to make the visitor’s time of worship a Christ-centered time on Sunday mornings? As a pastor, I would like some feedback on what other pastors do in the congregations they serve to engage the visitors and to get the visitors engaged in the worship of the true God: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I would also like to hear from the laity about what the congregation does to receive the visitors when they arrive.
Mr. Jim Pierce has written a fine piece from the perspective of a visitor in a congregation. The title is “The Divine Service Can Be Like Going to Mars.” You can read it here.
Brothers of John the Steadfast received following comment:
“Going into a Lutheran Church for the first time was an amazing experience and got me very concerned. The formality, the terminology, the ‘upper class’ pompousness all got me highly confused. And, no one took any time to explain anything to me. It was only after searching the net and asking questions that I got given information, and even that took some asking! It was almost like ‘These are our secrets and we are not willing to share them!'”
As a pastor, comments such as this haunt my dreams. God’s House of Prayer is not a “secret” society where only the select few get in and get to participate. It is a hospital for sinners. All people are welcome. All people need the gifts of God that flow from the foot of the cross. People need to confess their sins. They need to be absolved. They need Jesus!
As a pastor, I, for the most part, am vested 30 minutes before worship begins. I greet the members and the visitors personally. If a visitor comes in another entrance, my ushers or elders inform me and I go to them.
- I welcome them.
- I introduce myself.
- I ask them where they live.
- I ask them where they go to church.
- I ask them is they are Missouri Synod members.
- If they are, I invite them to the Lord’s Table.
- If they aren’t, I explain our confession of Closed Communion. I offer them a Baptismal blessing if they are Baptized or a blessing if they are not.
- I or the ushers give them a large print ordo (bulletin) that provides the entire service in a booklet. I do this so they don’t get lost in the Liturgy.
- I greet them after the worship service.
- I invite them to fellowship and Bible study.
- I always invite them back and ask them to call if they want to talk or ask questions about anything.
I try to get the congregation to be cognizant of visitors and have taught them, that if they see someone struggling during worship, go and sit with them and render them mercy and instruction. This practice may be easier or more difficult depending on the Christians in the House of God.
I believe we have a great responsibility to visitors who come to hear the Word of God.