My wife and I have an area of the church where we like to sit with the boys. It is close to the choir – we have a beautiful choir – and it’s near our entrance. We are not the people who have our “pew,” but we do have our section. Sound familiar?
My pastor’s homilies for the past few months have been on the theme of welcoming. The one homily that really stuck with me related to what he called “pew hospitality.” He said to move into the middle of the pew when you get to church. When others arrived at Mass, they don’t need to ask you to move over or climb over other people. He made me feel bad since I was the one at the end of the pew! I leaned over to the woman next to me and told her that. Since that Sunday, I have always moved the middle of the pew.
When we talk about welcoming church communications, often we mean bulletins, websites, Facebook, Instagram, newsletters, Twitter, and the like. Know what else communicates? Facial expression and a welcoming smile! Hospitality is communications. You are communicating to someone that they are or are not welcome. If you’re not sure how your church comes across, ask a friend or family member who doesn’t attend your church or, better yet, doesn’t attend church at all, to come to a Sunday Mass. Join them in the church after the arrive alone. Take their feedback to heart and make improvements where it’s needed.
Here are 4 simple ways your parish can help with welcoming.
- Leave the first few rows of parking open for guests. Ask your parishioners to arrive a little early and park further away. If someone has been away from the church for a while, there is nothing easier than leaving if they can’t find somewhere to park.
- Remove the doorstops. Ask a few parishioners on your hospitality committee to welcome your guests and hold the door for them when they enter the church.
- Ask families to be greeters. A parent and child can be a terrific greeting team, keeping it fun and lighthearted while serving in a ministry together.
- Include a note about welcoming children and babies into Mass. Here’s what my parish says:
At Holy Apostles, the presence of children is a gift to the Church as they are a reminder that our parish is growing. Please welcome our children and give a smile of encouragement to their parents.
Last weekend, there was a baby next to me and another in front of us. It brought smiles to people’s faces as they made sounds during Mass.
How is your church communicating to your parishioners the need to be more welcoming?