Thursday, February 04, 2010

Read and Learn -- I went visiting again

This time it was in town, and a church I sort of know; but ice and snow led me to the closest PCUSA church to my house (and I think the closest church of any flavor). I went to this church for about a year 20 years ago, and I have been back for one reason or another probably 4 or 5 times since. It is a small enough church for somebody new to be noticeable -- especially in bad weather.

I went to the website the night before, and it told me on the front page what time the services were. I got there a few minutes early and just inside the main doors is a small seating area with a family sitting there talking. Great idea, btw. The wife made eye contact, smiled and said Hello. In fact, I was warmly greeted by at least six different people -- none of them paid staff. No one offered tons of information, but eye contact and a smile make it easy to ask.

The only thing I noticed is that the main door to the Fellowship Hall (repository of the sacred coffee pot) was closed. I knew where to go, but most visitors would not. So, either leaving the doors open or putting a sign up that says, "Beyond Here There Be Coffee" would be useful. Oh, although people were, in general, quite welcoming; no one else sat on my pew. Now, it was certainly not crowded; but if you really want to find a way to make a visitor feel like a sore thumb -- let her sit on a pew all by herself.

I loved the seating area right inside the front door. Encourage your members to be handy when someone walks in. Second, make it easy for people to find where to go and where to find the coffee. Ultimately, though, the most important rule of being an accessible church is that your members -- not your staff -- have to be willing to make eye contact, say Hello and smile. It will be a long time before I forget the feeling from a few months ago of wandering around a fellowship hall and NO ONE would meet my eyes, smile in my direction or say Hello except the paid staff.


No comments: