You can’t underestimate the power of a handshake and a smile.
My family visited relatives in Northern Ohio to celebrate our welcoming our son Ethan into the world four years ago today. We joined them at the new church they are attending, Pleasant View Mennonite Church in North Lawrence, OH.
I mention that church specifically because for twenty minutes before the service started we were personally greeted by at least twenty people out of maybe a hundred and twenty attending this morning. One out of every six congregants came up and told us they were glad that we were there. They wanted to know about us, went out of their way to say how happy they were that we were there, and even showed special consideration to our son on his birthday. People engaged us as we left, too, hoping that we would come back again.
In an age when visitors can drift in and out of your average church undetected, is there nothing more powerful than a firm handshake and someone looking you square in the eye, telling you they are glad to have you come, and really meaning it? Isn’t that what people truly want to experience when they attend a church for the first time, a sense of belonging?
This church isn’t Powerpoint-enabled, doesn’t have a worship team or an $80,000 sound system, is populated by a lot of folks with gray hair, and still clings to hymns written two centuries ago. In short, they are not a marketing dream. But the one thing they do have is a congregation of people who know hospitality, who can make the alien welcome, who know the power of a genuine smile.
I’ll go back. Will you join me?