Make Outsiders Feel Like Insiders

Jen Ervig   -  

Make Outsiders Feel Like Insiders 

Here at The Grove Church we like to use the phrase “You Belong.” What does that mean and how do we prove it’s true? Iff I as a staff pastor understand it right – and I hope I do – otherwise Nik is gonna see this and have some words- it means that the vibe for anyone that calls The Grove home is belonging – yes we’re a tight-knit family but there’s a place for you here. 

Okay, so that’s what belonging means, but how do we prove it’s true in a practical way? We take ownership for hospitality, bring others along, and pray often. Let’s visit each of these concepts:

We take ownership for Hospitality

At The Grove, “the church” is all of us. It takes all of us to win. We are the church and we exist for the world. At The Grove, we’re not a country club but a field hospital. It’s not up to only the pastors and staff to make everyone feel welcome and pray for them. It’s the job of all who call The Grove home. 

Now, of course, because we’re a group of imperfect people, it’s possible to find what may seem like cliques as you would within any group of imperfect people – only because everyone here is on their own journey of understanding what it means to be a part of the Grove. It’s articles like this one that will help guide them to an understanding of what it means to be a part here. That being said, it is my pride and privilege to share that overwhelmingly time and again first time guests and old friends will tell us how welcome they feel when they walk in these doors or engage in our online communities. 

Why is that? When you walk into the Grove, yes – a pastor of staff member will be waiting in the lobby to say hi, smile and engage you in conversation, but guess who else will be? Literally anyone in the lobby at that time. Grove attenders understand that this is their church. They know it’s not just the pastor’s job to welcome people and engage others in conversation but it’s their job. 

Now, if you’re reading this thinking, “I’ve been attending for sometime now and I’ve literally never done this!” don’t feel bad. There’s no time like the present. Come early enough to your chosen gathering time to drop off your kids at GroveKids and grab your coffee at the cafe, then make a point of standing in the lobby for a minute or two and look for someone you don’t know yet. Catch their eyes, smile and say “can you remind me if I’ve met you yet?” Then, you’ll say “oh that’s right! We were on the same iheart team one year” or “oh yeah – we are FaceBook friends – those darn algorithms” or “well hi! I’ve been here for ____ years. I’m so glad you’re here. Are you attending the next gathering or leaving the previous one? I’d love to sit with you!” The key here is EMBRACE THE AWKWARD because even if you are extroverted, it can be tough to put yourself out there. 

Secondly, there are more subtle ways to engage others than hanging out in the lobby waiting to catch someone’s eye. You could ask the person standing next to you in line at the cafe, restroom, or KidCheck how they’re doing this morning. No matter what, the thing you’ve constantly got to remind yourself that you’re fighting against is tunnel vision. Keep your eyes up and out – not down at your feet as you make your way to the auditorium. Of course, everyone has bad days and you may just barely be able to drag yourself to church and sit down. That’s okay, but let’s not let it be the norm. 

Bring Others Along

One of my favorite things to do right now as someone who is comfortable embracing the awkward and addressing people in the lobby, is to bring someone with me. What do I mean by this? Well, say I’m standing in the lobby having a conversation with a friend and I see someone who looks new or I don’t recognize enter the vicinity. I say to my comrades, “hey, come with me to go say hi to this person.” The reason I love this is I’m more comfortable meeting someone new if I have someone I’m comfortable with with me. Then the person has met two new people, and It also helps whoever you were previously conversing with learn how to be hospitable too.

Pray Often

Finally, Grove attenders pray often. They pray constantly under their breath while getting ready for church and while driving there – “Lord, may every person who enters The Grove today feel like they belong.” 

That’s it. That’s how our “You Belong” culture is done. This happens in our online communities too. If you attend online, like and respond to other’s comments. Friend them on social media. Respond to prayer requests that you’re praying too. It takes we to win.