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Welcoming the Stranger

By Steve Gregg

On a recent Sunday morning, after worship I was struck by several things. One was the return of the kids running around the sanctuary. It’s good to see the kids enjoying each other and happy to be together. Another was watching the adults standing around and visiting. I think it’s a great sign of health to see folks enjoy staying after the service to talk and catch up. It means that we like and enjoy each other. And another thing I noticed are new faces. We have been having a steady string of visitors come check out Creekside, which is a blessing. While Creekside has been a welcoming church to newcomers (and our prayer is this Easter Sunday will be no different), I wanted to remind us of some things we can do to make sure these folks feel welcomed.

Look around for folks sitting alone and greet them: Before the service is the best time to look for new people. Often a visitor will come early to check out a church, but leave quickly after the service is over if they haven’t met someone. Coming a little early and having an eye out for folks who are by themselves is a great time to make that connection. Of course, it means getting there a little early which can be a challenge but worth it.  

Invite new folks to your OAG: The single best way to get folks plugged into the life of Creekside is to get them to attend a midweek OAG. Our small groups are where we get the chance to know and pray for each other, to build deeper connections than we can on a Sunday morning. Inviting folks to an OAG will allow them to meet more Creeksiders and to make more connections.

Invite them to lunch: While many people head home after lunch, a number of us grab lunch after church with friends and family. Inviting someone to join you and your group at lunch can be a wonderful way to make someone feel included and to get to know someone in a more relaxed sitting. I know of several folks who are now a part of the church family who were invited to lunch on one of their first Sundays and it made all the difference in them feeling like Creekside was their new church home.  

One of the key values we want Creekside to model is Hospitality. While we can and should show hospitality to one another, the basis of Biblical hospitality is loving the stranger. In the early church, one of the things that set Christians apart from the pagan neighbors was their willingness to show kindness and mercy to people they didn’t know. This concern for the welfare of someone they didn’t know was a tangible way to show the grace of the gospel. In a very real way, it tilled the relational soil for Gospel conversations later. If you’re like me, you feel out a bit out of practice after almost 2 years of COVID.  But with people showing up in our services, there’s no better time to take small steps towards new people and towards loving people well. The wonderful thing is not only will we be a blessing to someone else, it will be an encouragement to us as well as we see Christ use us to encourage someone else.