Hi everyone! My name is Brittney Lynn. I recently met Patrick through a local social media networking Meetup here in Dallas. I reached out to Patrick after hearing him mention that he owns a business helping churches build optimized websites. Working in the social media marketing industry, I was intrigued. We met for coffee and ended up talking about a variety of topics, one being one of my first-time experiences at a church. He asked if I would share my story, and I gladly agreed. Here we go!
A Little Background About Me
My husband and I (and our dog!) just moved to Dallas in September 2015 due to a job relocation for my husband. Before living in Dallas, we lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for five years.
I didn’t grow up consistently going to church. My parents were divorced, and we just never really had a church to call home. I have been to a variety of churches, including Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, and Lutheran. Through the various churches I have been to, I’ll be honest, I always felt out of place.
Maybe it’s because I grew up in a very small town, which means very small churches, and they can sometimes tend to not be as welcoming to newcomers. That’s not to say every small church isn’t welcoming, but in my experience many of them didn’t have arms wide open to first-time visitors.
I get it. Once you have relationships with other people in your congregation, you want to catch up with those people on Sunday. It can be easy to fall into a routine of sitting in the same spot, talking to the same people, and going through the motions. We all have fallen trap to that, and it’s a hard habit to break.
So with all of that being said, I’m always very nervous going to new churches.
What will they think of me?
Am I wearing the appropriate clothes?
Is it okay if I take communion?
Where should I sit?
I hope I don’t mess up a song.
I’ve had all of these thoughts plus some.
When my husband and I initially moved to Milwaukee, we knew no one. One of our top priorities was to find a church. He grew up in a Lutheran church, and that was the one I was most familiar with, so we decided to try Lutheran churches first.
We selected Hales Corners Lutheran Church, and I’ll admit, we picked it first because it was close to our apartment 🙂
Going in, I didn’t really have expectations. Nearly all of the churches I had been to in my life left me somewhat disappointed and even anxious, so I figured it would take a lot for a church as large as this one (8,000 members!) to impress me.
I can graciously admit that I was 100% wrong.
We walked into the church and greeters were immediately at the front door welcoming everyone inside. We took a bulletin from another greeter placed outside of the sanctuary.
We had not sat down for 2 minutes and the senior pastor at the time, Pastor Mike, came up to introduce himself. Keep in mind, this particular service has a range of 2,000-2,500 attendees. He spotted us because he didn’t know us and immediately came to speak with us and make us feel welcome.
Both the pastor and us had ties to Indiana (my husband and I are from there, and we went to Purdue) so we discussed that among other topics. He was genuine, kind, attentive, and welcoming.
One thing that always stuck out to me at Hales Corners Lutheran, no matter what pastor was leading, they always started each service saying that all guests are welcome and how happy they were that you were there worshiping with them today.
It sounds so simple, and to some I’m sure it sounds like a throw away comment, but that really made a difference to me. I had never felt welcomed like that in any other church, and we knew from that day it would be our church home in Milwaukee.
Pastor Mike ended up baptizing me a few months later, as I had never been baptized before. It was an emotional day for me and one I’m so glad he was able to be a part of before he retired a year later.
As you can imagine, we now have pretty high standards for finding our next church home in Dallas. It hasn’t been as clear to us here so far, but once we find the one, I’m sure God will let it be known.
Welcoming Church Takeaways:
Hey guys, Patrick Steil here. I am so glad Brittney shared her story with us. I wanted to highlight a few things we can learn from her experience:
- Even in a big church, if the Pastor(s) are attentive, you can spot new folks, and this is very important for any size church and every Pastor to do! People want to be recognized and made to feel important.
- The Pastor welcoming all guests at the beginning of worship is super important. And the sprinkling of such messages throughout the service is even better.
- It is time for ALL churches regardless of size to become SUPER-WELCOMING to their guests!
May God Bless you with many guests this Sunday!