On Sunday, September 7, we start “The 10:30 Challenge”. What’s this challenge all about? Why are we doing it? This is the first of two posts giving some context. We hope you’ll join us.
Part 1: Offering our best hospitality
A couple of months ago I had the chance to worship with another church on Sunday morning and it was great. I loved the opportunity to participate in a different style of worship and meet other brothers and sisters who are faithfully following Jesus. But the experience also reminded me of just how difficult it can be to walk into a church for the first time as a visitor. It seems so obvious, but you don’t know where anything is – you don’t know any one – you’re not sure where the bathrooms are or if coffee is allowed in the sanctuary. It can be down right daunting (and that’s coming from a guy who’s been in church his whole life).
That experience stuck with me and has led Andy and I to spend the last couple of months considering how we are doing at helping visitors feel welcome and at home. During that time, I’ve sought out guests at the Branch and after worship asked them about their experience. By and large it has been positive: the music and preaching, communion and prayer, the way they were able to greet people during worship — were all meaningful. But interestingly, each person I spoke with also talked about their ‘first impression’. When they arrived early (as visitors almost always do), they found the building nearly empty. Not only were they not sure where the bathrooms were, but they wondered if they had come at the right time. And because there was no one to talk to and a really quiet, low energy atmosphere — they felt a bit awkward as they stood around waiting for us to start.
As I listened to these folks, I shared a bit of our history as a church — explaining that for the first seven years of our life we were rarely able to begin at our official start time because there was another church that worshipped before us. And so while the Branch started at 11:00, everyone knew that practically speaking it wasn’t really until 11:05, 11:10 or later that we got going. Over time, this led us all (myself included) to be understandably casual about the way we viewed our official start time.
The good news is that today we don’t face that same constraint. Because no one worships before us we are free and able to start at 10:30. So here’s what we’ve been thinking about (yes…I’m finally getting to the point). In order for us to offer our best hospitality — to mirror the welcome and kindness that we know God extends to us — we need to shift the way we think about 10:30. Instead of thinking of it as the time to arrive — we need to see it as the time we begin. Which means that arriving before 10:30 will be critical if we are to welcome visitors with the generosity and authenticity that makes the Branch so unique.
One thing I know beyond a doubt is that the Branch has so much to offer those who are looking for a home — so much to share with those who are hoping to find a place to belong. But in order for us to offer hospitality — we need to be here when they walk through our doors.
Now, to be sure, we will all have weeks when everything goes haywire and making it here before 10:30 just isn’t possible. That’s ok and to be expected. But for the not-so-haywire weeks, here’s the challenge I want to extend to you:
[box type=”note”]Let’s form a new habit of being in our seats, ready to worship, at 10:30.[/box] This will certainly mean arriving early enough to check in your kids or grab a cup of coffee (so maybe it’s actually the 10:20 challenge). Can you partner with us as we offer our best hospitality?
We have some fun things planned during this challenge — we’re looking forward to it — and grateful that you would consider joining us.
Next week — Part 2. Because believe it or not, hospitality isn’t the only reason to accept this challenge. More to come.