The Difference Between Friendly and Welcoming

By Nate Schofield

This past week I took my 6-year-old son to his very first soccer practice. Many of the children arrived wearing matching socks, and jumped right into warm-ups and drills that they already knew. It was obvious that my son, in his plain white socks, was one of the only children who hadn’t played on the team last year. After a quick hello and introduction from the coach, all the parents seemed to clump into predefined huddles where they caught up on their off season life changes. Overhearing conversations about a new job, a new baby on the way, and a pending change of address, I was reminded of what it’s like to be a newcomer.

Don’t get me wrong; the other soccer parents were very nice. I would even call them downright friendly. However, I would not refer to the experience as welcoming. But we signed up to play on the team and we paid the fees… so we’ll return to the next practice, and the next, and eventually we’ll stop being “the new people.” (The good news is, my son had fun running around chasing the ball with his new friends!)

Would a first time guest to our church call the experience welcoming? I have no doubt that everyone here would be friendly, but would we all go out of our way to make someone feel truly welcome in our church family?  Would we put aside our personal comfort and preferences to make a guest comfortable and welcome on our campus? Would that first time guest feel so welcomed they’d return again? Or would they see a church that already has established relationships, with no room for another family member?

This Easter season, it’s my prayer that we not only invite our friends, coworkers, and neighbors to join us for services, but that every new guest feels so loved and welcomed that they can’t imagine NOT returning again.