Shepherdess: Foyer Evangelism

You probably never thought of a greeter as an evangelist. But it's at the front door of the church that decisions are often made.

Sigrid Whitsett, a church worker for many years, is currently retired and living in Granada Hills, California.

We hear much at times about individuals the church loses out the ''back door'' because of neglect and lack of spiritual nurture. In our opinion, losses to the church caused by the closed ' 'front door'' are just as serious as those resulting from the open back door. Unfortunately, many of our churches make it as difficult for people to get inside as they make it easy for them to leave.

As we travel in connection with our duties, we attend enough unfamiliar churches to make us aware of how important initial impressions are to visitors. A church doesn't have to be large or ornate to be clean, neat, and friendly. When, as visitors, we are left to find our way about the best we can; when no one is present to welcome us to their church; when little or no mention is made of the church's happiness in having visitors; when the appearance of the church suggests that it is expecting no visitors, it is easy to begin feeling a bit unwanted or to begin comparisons with other churches that made us feel so glad we came. Frankly, we are disturbed at the meager efforts of so many Adventist churches to make visitors feel welcome and want to return.

What good is it to close the back door if we don't open the front one?—Editors.

Just as every church makes a statement by its own particular style of architecture, so each church has its own certain atmosphere. This atmosphere is detected quickly by visitors and is largely created by those appointed to greet members and visitors at the door. Churches that attract repeat visitors convey an attitude of reverence, yet friendliness; activity, yet peacefulness. The greeter has the very important responsibility of attempting to put the church member and the visitor alike at ease, making them receptive to the service of the church.

Because of our relationship to the pastor, we wives have a unique position in helping him to meet the needs of visitors. Is greeting people graciously an art or a gift? Can it be developed, or must one be born with it? Some find it easy to approach strangers and extend a warm, friendly greeting. Others are shy, reserved, or feel inadequate, and may not realize that their shyness can easily be interpreted as aloofness or unconcern. What ever our natural abilities, we can develop the art of greeting. How can we do it?

1. We must be genuinely glad that visitors have made the effort to come to our church. Convey this gladness with joyful Christian radiance. Smile as you extend your hand for a warm handclasp. Sincerely feel that it is an honor to greet them. Try to introduce them to the pastor. If he is not available, try to connect name and face so you can tell him later and he can watch for them after church.

2. Remember that you are at the front door of the church to serve the needs of strangers. Treat each as an individual. If possible, introduce them to some friendly member near their own age and type. If they have children, go with them or direct them to the proper Sabbath school division. If they arrive at the close of Sabbath school, try to get a lesson paper for them so they will feel a part of next week's program.

3. Learn names as rapidly as possible. Probably nothing is so important to an individual as being greeted by name. This is the most personal type of greeting; it says that you have made a special effort to remember this individual of the many you have met. Remembering names too is an art and can be developed.

4. Be alert to needs. Some visitors come with heavy hearts and unsolved problems. Although it may be these needs that have brought them to church, they are often reluctant to speak of them. We can lighten their load by being genuinely friendly as they enter God's sanctuary. Just knowing some one is glad to see them really helps. Many, both members and visitors, have problems that are not spiritual in nature. These too must be our concern.

A word of caution here: Be aware of those who tend to monopolize your time and attention. You cannot greet others and carry on an extended conversation. You may have to suggest talking further at another time or offer to phone later in the week.

In some churches the minister's wife may feel unneeded or even unwanted by the regular staff of greeters. In such cases, it may be helpful to have the pastor request the church board to place his wife among the greeting staff as his representative. We are not there to replace the regular greeters, but to supplement and assist them. We can learn much from them.

''The true expression of heaven-born sympathy has power to open the door of hearts that need the fragrance of Christlike words, and the simple, delicate touch of the spirit of Christ's love." —Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 354.

Prayers from the parsonage

by Cherry B. Habe

I'm so tired tonight. I meant to get to bed early, but the phone rang just as I lay down. A few minutes of conversation woke me enough to decide I'd at least start writing that book review for the church newsletter. Where did the time go? Now I'll barely get the rest I need before little feet patter into our room and determined voices call, "Mamma ..."

As I slip into sleep, I want to focus my thoughts on You instead of on a hundred little day-to-day details. Please take the plans, appointments, and deadlines whirling in my head. Sort through my list of things to do and tell me tomorrow what is really important.

Take my cares and worries, too. I'll try not to dwell on today's mistakes or on what I should have done and didn't.

And thank You for bearing my sin and guilt so I can feel cleansed and free. "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28).

I'm glad You don't expect me to be a superwoman. You understand my fatigue and promise spiritual and physical refreshing.

Good night, dear Jesus. May I wake to sing Your praises in the morning.

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Sigrid Whitsett, a church worker for many years, is currently retired and living in Granada Hills, California.

April 1981

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