Dear brothers and sisters,

Do you remember your first time at St Thomas’? Do you remember why you joined St Thomas’?

I still remember the first time I came to St Thomas’. It was a cold Sunday in the autumn of 2016 and I was considering joining as a student minister. I can still remember where I parked, the long (nervous!) walk up the footpath to the church and who spoke to me after the service.

Perhaps you can still remember something about your first time at our church too!? I hope it was helpful. I hope you were encouraged. I hope someone made a genuine attempt to welcome you, without any agenda.

Each week, we have anywhere between 10-30 visitors joining us for the first time. Each one of these people is having a significant experience as they consider whether to come back in the following weeks. Some people are coming with questions, some with expectations. Some are coming with a lot of anxiety and nerves and others in a lot of pain and heartache.

Last week we ran a Belong session after the 10am service, (Belong is for anyone new to St Thomas’), and the majority shared how they had been welcomed so well – warmly greeted, genuine conversations and even invitations to a home cooked meal. It was so encouraging to hear that this had all happened weeks before they came to Belong.

How we welcome people every time we gather (whether on Sunday or at other midweek events) is SO important. We can have a huge impact on whether or not someone returns just by speaking to them.

When I started to think about how we welcome people a few years ago, there was one comment that really stuck with me: “We know the minister will try to speak to us, that’s his job. But when someone else, who doesn’t have a job to do, speaks to us, it really means a lot.”

So each week, everyone of us has a wonderful opportunity to welcome someone and make their experience of our church a memorable one, for the right reasons. We never know who we might be speaking to – a bruised soul looking for answers, a prodigal son coming home (Luke 15:20), a new believer needing reassurance, a fellow believer looking for a new family, or even an angel (Hebrew 13:2)!

Making our visitors feel at ease prepares them to hear the word of God. Our welcoming efforts complement our word ministry. Making our visitors feel like they are welcome amongst us can help them hear the word of God (Romans 10:17) and respond to our Lord Jesus Christ.

So let’s be ready to speak to someone new this Sunday. It might be on the way in to one of our services. It might be during the service when we have a moment to greet someone sitting near us. Or it might be after the service in the carpark.

May the Lord help us and use us as we seek to love the people that come through our doors each Sunday (and during the week too).

Together in Christ,

Luke Shooter

PS We have been trying to improve our ‘formal’ welcoming process across each of our services in 2021 – which includes print on demand nametags. We are very thankful for Helvi Rossi (8am), Joshua Armstrong (10am) and Matt Collins (5pm) who have stepped up to help coordinate the welcoming ministries at each of our services. Please remember to arrive a bit earlier as we get our systems running smoothly over the next few weeks.