One of the most uncomfortable moments in my life was showing up to a brunch that I thought I was invited to and yet no one was expecting me. They must’ve accidentally sent the invitation to my inbox. I showed up at an intimate table of six people — one of them I knew — and noticed there wasn’t room for seven. Everyone said “Hi,” the person I knew introduced me to the group, and it was almost as if everyone was waiting for me to go away at one point. They must’ve thought I was simply coming over to say hello and then go meet my party or have brunch in another area of the restaurant. It was uncomfortable, it was embarrassing and I felt extremely awkward. So what did I do? I left. I turned right around and walked out the door. Why? They weren’t expecting me. They weren’t ready for me.
I think about that feeling a lot when I’m at Hoboken Grace on Sunday mornings. I think to myself, “I never want anyone to feel like we weren’t anticipating their arrival.” I think about it in terms of my dinner group as well. I remember my first dinner group at Hoboken Grace. I was nervous showing up at the house of a person I had never met to share a meal with people I’d never met. I even circled around the block a couple times to psych myself up before walking in there. You know what the biggest difference was between my first dinner group experience and that horrific brunch experience? They were EXPECTING me! They had set a place at the table for me. They made enough food for me! Which is something that brought a tear to my eye, because I like to eat! I felt welcomed and I instantly was put at ease.
We strive to do that same thing on Sunday mornings. Think about the first time you walked into Hoboken Grace. Did you feel like we were anticipating your arrival? That we were ready to receive guests? I sure hope so. I also don’t want it to be just the job of the First Impressions Team. I would love it if as a family we were sensitive to the new people walking through our doors and how we all can make them feel comfortable.
How can we do that? Here are some practical ways we can all make people feel welcomed:
— If you drive on Sundays, don’t park right in front of the building — I know, parking in Hoboken is a premium. But what if you thought about that spot that may open up in front of the building as a spot for a first-time guest?
— Make it a point to use the phrase “Hey, I don’t think we’ve met before,” rather than, “Is this your first time here?” This makes people feel less isolated and picked out if they are indeed here for the first time.
— Move to the center of your row of chairs. This may seem trivial, but first-time guests aren’t as comfortable asking people to move. If you leave aisle seats open for our guests, it can help put them at ease!
These are just some things that would help put me at ease, but I’m sure you can think of more! One of my favorite verses about welcoming people just came up in our Bible reading plan. It’s found in Hebrews 13:2 and it says, “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” What a great thought. That person you greeted, those people you made feel welcome — who knows, you may have been entertaining an angel!