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Top Ten: Ways to Welcome the Stranger

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Learn more about the Top Ten. Bishop Benfield introduces this unique tool to help churches see Jesus in the stranger. Spread the word about the Top Ten in your church. Print out pamphlets and posters for your congregation.

Do you have a story about how you were welcomed at a church? Or maybe you have a Top Ten suggestion. We’d love to hear it. Share it in the Comments section below.


9 Responses to “Top Ten: Ways to Welcome the Stranger”

  1. Rick says:

    I feel that many parishes are not very welcoming to people that are new to their church. I have visited a few churches in a couple of states and no one really speaks to you unless spoken too. Sad really. As Christians we are called by Christ to spread the gospel. I don’t recall reading anywhere where Jesus snobby or just un-caring. I think it’s time we start holding our parishes accountable. If someone new walks in, we should be greeting them and if they have never been to an Episcopal Church, we should be sitting with them, explaining everything as the service unfolds. Including why we do the things we do. I was taken under and Episcopalians wings my first day. He explained everything to me. I didn’t feel like a fool because I didn’t understand why people were kneeling or making the sign of the cross. We all need to strive to be this way in our congregations. Shame on all of us who just politely smile and go to our seats.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was baptized Episcopalian, confirmed Episcopalian, baptized my kids and husband Episcopalian and married in my life long Episcopal Church…. yet I still feel like a stranger in my own congregation.
    Now I find myself in a new state and looking to find an Episcopal Church, but it seems strangers aren’t welcome. Maybe thats the problem and I do agree with the comment about cliques.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The question really should be asked:
    Does our congregation want to welcome new people? Why? What type of people would we welcome? What might be their roles? What is each of our roles? Are we flexible to change? Should we be? In what areas might we be willing/not willing to change? In one congregation we held cottage meetings to communicate what we wanted as a congregation to the priest search committee. Some people were honest enough to state that they were content with the church the way it was. They did not want change. They were not really interested in attracting new people.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Discussion points –
    #5 – Focus on the Worshiper – Share a prayer book with a visitor (it’s easier for us to find the passages) or find each page and lay it beside a visitor for them to pick up and read if they want to.
    #6 – Make Connections – Establish a regularly advertised and easily accessible prayer list. Ensure that life events are attended by regular calls and visits (illness, death (with grief counseling options in hand), births, etc. It is helpful to bring food; bring cereal and milk or a frozen dinner to heat in the oven if you do not cook. Visit or call even if you have no food. Newcomers will notice how we treat each other.
    #7 – Include Children and Youth – This is arguably one of the most controversial challenges facing our church. The bullets only addressed how to store them during service.
    #8 – Offer Transformative Worship – Bullet number one states, “make your music first rate. If the music cannot be good, omit it.” Who determines what is good? We listen with human ears, but God listens to our hearts. Which type of listening are we supporting? What level of participation are we encouraging? I understand and enjoy that service is a reverential experience prescribed by our liturgy and practices. Like the finger pointing toward God, we need to be careful not to worship the finger.
    #9 – Celebrate Together After Church – Another point of controversy. Should only coffee and donuts be served so to accommodate those who eat out after church? or should a dinner be served to accommodate the live alone fixed income elderly and families?
    Although some of these comments may seem to address daily congregational life more than newcomers specifically, it’s fruits of the spirit and the newcomer will sniff the fruit. :)

  5. Anonymous says:

    I need to write this anonymously because this remains an unresolved issue with our church. While we have a greeters committee and we are remodeling to make our church appear more open, there seems to be a clique issue. Those who have been long time members will associate with their friends, who also have been long time members at both the weekly church services as well as special events and potlucks. Rarely do I see visitors and newcomers welcomed by parishoners. Fathers Jesse and Michael, though, are always going out of their way to make newcomers and visitors feel at home, but there is only so much that they can do. I hope and pray that there will be a change of heart among the parishoners of St. Mark’s, otherwise, things will not change.

  6. Susan Hiller says:

    Since I “worship regularly with” rather than “officially belong to” St. Margaret’s because of affiliation with another church in Colorado, I have been the recipient of gracious acts of welcome and hospitality from the priest and all members of the congregation with whom I have come in contact. My “status” has been embraced to the point that each time that I am able to worship there, I feel comfortable and contented. The sermons, the music, the camraderie, and the Communion all feed me, and I am grateful.

  7. Ben Helmer says:

    Our plan for now at St. James’ Eureka Springs is…

    1) having a dialogue sermon about Welcoming the Stranger, handing out the ten step guides and asking people to fill out a brief response/evaluation form about how they perceive St. James does each of these. I would also include a check box for (1) new member (2) regular attendee non-member and (3) long-time member, 3 yrs or more.

    2) Following the sermon we would have some breakout groups at coffee hour with someone acting as a facilitator for each group to share stories about welcoming the stranger that they have experienced.

    (3) A small group of vestry would evaluate the day, the responses and comments, and then decide where to focus our energies.

    (4) Have a “newcomers” night where food is provided and one or two of our best story tellers tell about the secrets of St. James.

  8. Thank you for the Top Ten booklets. We are giving them to our vestry members, staff, greeters and members of our newcomer fractal. While we were already doing many of the things listed, “the Top Ten” has sparked interest in more. Thank you.

  9. jmatthews says:

    We’ve already had two churches request an additional 50 “Top Ten” booklets to use with their congregations. How is your church using the Top Ten?

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