There they were. Smack dab in the middle of every “Visitor” space in the entire parking lot. And I, being a visitor, was quite bemused (and just a wee bit annoyed). I parked one street over and hiked back to the building. It was a crisp, fall day and I was grateful the rain from the previous night had ended.
When I got to the lobby, I asked the receptionist, “What’s with all of the Visitor spaces being blocked off? I had to park in the next block!”
She looked sheepish and said, “Oh, our Board of Directors is coming for a site visit. They always park in the visitor spots.”
“They aren’t exactly visitors, are they?” I asked.
“No,” she replied. “But they expect to be treated like one.”
Now, I’m in the ministry. (That’s in case you hadn’t picked up on that fact!) We think a lot about how to welcome visitors and encourage them to join in our church’s vision and mission and values. We want there to be an easy entry into worshipping and getting involved.
Sometimes we get it mostly right. And sometimes we create obstacles to making a “visitor” feel welcomed. If it’s all about the insider and the stakeholders, how does a new face become a part of the church family? If it requires a lot of “translating” so that people know what to do without feeling awkward or strange, what are all our plans for, anyway? Why are we clinging to actions which make no sense to an onlooker? What language, music and worship practices do we use? And does it make sense to modern ears? And where is the invitation to join us in our love and relationship with God?
Just musing… and wanting to do a better job. After all, if I believe this life with Jesus is better lived with the care and support of a church family, shouldn’t I try to help others experience it too?
(In case you wondered… the answer is YES!)
I once worked for a church that not only gave me a parking space next to the building (in the back, but still) they also put a sign on the wall announcing that this space was for me. I really disliked that idea, it felt so wrong.
I get what you mean… But our building is shared space, and there are days that there are no empty parking spaces… There is a “pastor” space so that she can go in and out for appointments and not lose a place to park.
Great story even if inconvienant for you and so glad it’s not just the church that makes a hash of being welcoming at times. 🙂