As a result of Hurricane Katrina our little church has had to close. We had to sell the building and pick up all the pieces. It was a sad time but circumstances forced this upon us. So it was time to move on and find a new place of worship.
We really hate looking for churches, seems like there are so many different religions, with so many different beliefs that it is hard to find a place you fit and feel at home. It is difficult to believe that we have found churches to be some of the most unfriendly places around. . .
We once belonged to a large church in New Orleans and were part of the core group and we were surprised when people said they found our church unfriendly!! WE had lots of friends so we could not understand the problem.
So we started watching. Visitors would come in at the last minute, sit towards the back and leave as soon as the service was over-there was no time for anyone to be friendly to them. We began trying to reach them before they could leave just so we could welcome them, but in the course of this we also learned how to be a visitor at a church. A lesson that would prove useful in the future.
Then we moved to Houston, TX which is a very transient community. There are not many native Houstonians around so people in that area have learned to be friendly to newcomers. Churches are large and friendly and we had no problem making friends and fitting in.
Then we moved to Mississippi and things changed. Mississippi is quite different from anyplace else we have ever lived.
When we started looking for a church we remembered the lessons we learned in New Orleans-we arrived early, sat in the middle of the sanctuary and stayed around after the service was over. Many, many people said hello and welcomed us-they never introduced themselves or asked our names. They never asked where we lived or worked. Basically they were not friendly.
It took us over 6 months to find the little church I mentioned earlier and it was heartbreaking when we had to close the doors and start all over looking for a new church.
Again we began visiting churches all over the area. So many people were glad to see us, told us hello and that was it-no introductions, no one asked our names, we did not feel welcome.
We have found a church where we feel welcome and are slowly making friends. I hope other church memebers will read this and understand how hard it is to find a church home and will reach out and make an effort not only to be friendly, but to actually befriend the visitors to your congregation.
May God be glorified.