Church members make newcomers feel like a part of the family.

In Spring 2016, I had the opportunity to work on a research study that looked at effectively evangelistic churches. Using data from my own interviews as well as those from fellow research team members, I wanted to understand what activities help a previously unchurched person become part of a church. The research revealed a number of different answers.

Based on the interviews, however, the first and most important activity of effectively evangelistic churches is to offer a welcoming, inclusive environment most importantly on a Sunday morning, but extending into all of the endeavors of the church.

The majority of the answers from previously unchurched participants centered on feeling that the church community genuinely wanted to include them. Ten of eleven of those interviewed highlighted their amazement at being welcomed rather than encountering judgment and prejudice.

For each person, the welcome began outside the church with a personal invitation of a co-worker, classmate, or family member. Then, when they attended a church service, they often described experiencing a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, which was followed by more intentional actions on the part of the both congregants and the pastor to connect with and include them.

Finally, this welcome went beyond their initial Sunday experience into deeper, ongoing relationships in the church.

For example, at one church in the Northeast, two previously unchurched participants made special note of the Sunday morning experience, specifically that people in the service went out of their way to welcome and accommodate them as newcomers. Cindy, an older widow, shared her amazement that congregants moved their seats to make space for her and other visitors. Brian, a young man in his …

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