Making All Feel Welcome on Easter

              Easter is a “family reunion,” at least according to one of the blogs geared for pastors that I regularly read. It’s the Sunday during the church year where everyone tends to show up. The whole church family gathers together to rejoice and share in the good news that Christ is risen. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to embrace this image of the family reunion as what I hope Easter Sunday feels like at Abiding Presence. I grew up going to family reunions almost every summer and have lots of great memories of them.

              Some of my family reunion memories, however, are also of being the awkward kid who didn’t really know anyone. My grandfather had moved away from the family “hometown” shortly after graduating high school, which meant we only ever saw my extended family at the annual family reunion. Everyone else, it always seemed, saw each all the time.

              To those of us who are well connected, Easter Sunday can feel like that wonderful, warm and welcoming family reunion. To our guests, though, I can imagine that Easter Sunday at Abiding Presence might feel like that family reunion where everyone knows everyone else except them. So, I hope you will join me in helping everyone feel welcome at Abiding Presence by:

·       Practice the 5-Minute Rule – Spend the first 5 minutes after the service ends talking to people you don’t know. The reality is that your friends and family will be sticking around longer than 5 minutes (especially if they are practicing the rule, too). People who don’t have anyone to talk to, however, will be out the door and in their car within 5 minutes after the service ends if no one engages them.

·       Use the “Connection Pads” – Make sure you pass the pad in your row during the announcements on Easter Sunday and take a moment to read the names of the people worshiping in your row. Greet the people in your row by name at the sharing of the peace and at the end of the service.

·       Be Someone’s Reason to Come Back – Almost everyone I talk to who is an active and involved member of Abiding Presence can tell me the story of their first Sunday at Abiding Presence and the name of the person who welcomed them. Be someone’s story! If someone is worshiping with us for the first time on Easter, take a minute to talk with them. Grab one of the welcome bags we’ll have at the back of the church and give it to them. Tell them you’ll be looking for them next Sunday and remind them that the service times will change back to our regular schedule.

·       Offer Grace – Holidays can be stressful, especially for families who aren’t use to the routine of getting up and out the door for worship every week. Heck! They are stressful even for families that worship every week. Offer grace to the people who may be having a hard morning. Remember your words of welcome and encouragement could be what makes the good news of Easter become real to them.

We say “All Are Welcome” at Abiding Presence…and we mean it! On Easter Sunday, and every other Sunday of the year, too, we can make sure people feel like they are welcome whether they are walking in the door for the first time or they have been here forever.