“Welcoming season” is well and truly upon us at my church. Being based in central London, this the time of year when lots of people move in to the city to start new jobs, and new students flood the area. The new academic year can also be a time when lots of people decide it’s time to turn over a new leaf and try to get stuck in to a church for the first time in a while.
The result is lots of new faces, lots of those “hi, I don’t think I’ve met you before” conversations, and a great opportunity to help people get stuck in to a church family where they can be looked after and helped to settle in this potentially scary city.
Except that I’m rubbish with names. The trouble with having so many similar conversations all at once is that it’s easy to get people muddled up, and sometimes hard to follow people up beyond that initial “nice to meet you!” This year I’m trying something new: I’ve created myself a list in the PrayerMate app called “New people at church”, where I’ve added some of the people I’ve met. In the new world of GDPR it’s probably good practice to ask people’s permission before you add them — but what a great opportunity to say “I use this little app to help me pray for people — do you mind if I add you to my list so that I can be praying for you as you settle in to the area?” and maybe even find out from them some specific things to be praying. Who knows, that might help you get beyond the superficial and actually start building a genuine connection with that person.
Practically speaking, here’s how I did it:
1. Create a “Newcomers” list
Go to the “Lists” tab/page and at the bottom of the first “My lists” column press the “+” button to create a new list.
Creating a new list
For bonus points you can tap the cog button in the list’s top right corner and go to “List settings” then tap “List photo” and select the “Church” icon from the gallery of built-in icons.
2. Add names to your list
As you meet people, you can go to the “Add +” page of the app, and type their name in to the “Enter something to pray for” box, then choose your new list as the place you want to add them.
Adding someone to pray for
If you have more time, you could also tap the pencil icon in the top right corner of your new prayer card and add a few specific things to pray. If you’re really hitting it off with them and you’re their new best friend you could even ask to take a photo of them and add it to their entry.
Adding specific prayer requests
3. Pray for them!
There’s no use adding people’s name to a list if it then gets forgotten. Thankfully PrayerMate is designed to help you actually turn those good intentions in to prayer. Why not enable a daily reminder on the “Reminders” tab/page? Then when you launch the app and start a new prayer session, you might start seeing one of your newcomers to pray for, along with a selection from all of your other prayer cards.
Starting a new prayer session
Other tips for welcoming newcomers
Not related to PrayerMate, but here are some other tips we’ve found helpful for welcoming newcomers:
- Welcoming is something for the whole church family, not just a specific “welcome team”. It really helps if everybody is proactive in looking out for new faces and not just being “cliquey” wanting to talk only to our mates.
- Since it’s only for a short season each year, why not get different people in the church family to host a “newcomers’ lunch” every Sunday for the first few weeks of term? A meal can be a wonderful thing in helping people feel at home.
- Think of the welcome you received when you joined the church — what were the things that were done well? What was done less well and that you would have loved to have been different? Can you be that welcoming friendly face for the next new person who walks through the door?
- Pray about it! Pray before you go to church that God would help you to welcome the stranger, pray about who you’ll sit next to, who you’ll stand next to in the queue for the toilets — God is sovereign over all of that!
- Be brave! It can be scary to take that step of saying “hello” to a newcomer, but it’s the first step in being welcoming. We often let the fear of getting it wrong put us off even trying — but we needn’t! Being weak is a big part of what it means to be a Christian, and it’s often when we step out of our comfort zone that we see God at work.
PrayerMate is a free mobile app designed to help you be consistent in praying for yourself, for your loved ones and for God’s world. Get it today at http://app.prayermate.net/