Everyone Welcome?

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Many congregations truly do believe they are open to everyone until someone different comes along making them feel uncomfortable.

I meet people all the time — faithful people, smart people, good and decent people — who have walked away from the church because they have come up against our barricades — our rules, regulations, dress codes, and expectations of behavior.”

I recently visited a church where, and I kid you not, they had two posters on the wall near the entrance to the sanctuary with pictures of certain clothing styles that were on one poster unacceptable and on the other acceptable to wear. As I walked inside, I was met by another sign that said, “No food or drink beyond this point. This means YOU!” Just beyond that sign was another one that read, “Those who truly honor Christ kneel when they receive Communion.” The real kicker was the words printed in their bulletin: “Everyone welcome!” Nobody can make this stuff up.

I meet people all the time — faithful people, smart people, good and decent people — who have walked away from the church because of petty things like this and, unfortunately, not so petty things. They have come up against our barricades — our rules, regulations, dress codes, and expectations of behavior — and have returned home muttering beneath their breath, “I don’t belong there. I will never do this again.”

Their experience of us is anything but real. They see us as stuffy, pretentious, often out of touch with reality, and just plain inauthentic. Unchurched people (as we call them) are smarter than we think. They see through our phoniness. They can smell hypocrisy a mile away.


This material is reprinted from Gary’s book, The Meandering Way: Leading by Following the Spirit, Copyright 2007 by the Alban Institute and used with permission.  It can be purchased at Amazon.

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About Author

Gary Shockley is a member of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church, currently an artist and art teacher living in North Carolina. He is the author of The Meandering Way: Leading by Following the Spirit (Alban, 2007) and Imagining Church: Seeing Hope in a World of Change (Alban, 2009).


Be the Welcoming Church cover image of a smiling person warming embracing anotherHow Can Your Church Make Visitors Feel Truly Welcome and Comfortable?

The Be the Welcoming Church Video Tool Kit will help you develop a congregation-wide ethos of hospitality and institute best practices for greeting newcomers, making them feel at home and encouraging them to return. The resource includes engaging videos, a Study and Discussion Guide, and more. Be the Welcoming Church may be used for hospitality training or in adult classes or groups. more. Learn more and watch video previews now.