We visit a lot of Churches when we are in the US and I thought it would be helpful to share with you what I think are some of the best practices for welcoming a missionary who will be speaking during your Sunday morning worship service.
This past Sunday we visited Central Valley Christian Fellowship and they did a great job welcoming us. In fact they did such an amazing job that I wanted to share some of the things they did in this post. To see what Central Valley did watch the video above. Some of what I share below is from their example and some from other churches.
1. Do your research
It was obvious that the people at CVCF did their research, they had information about us all over the church. There are a few ways you could find information about your missionary.
- Check to see if they have a website (this is what CVCF did and they pulled a lot of information off of it!)
- Check out their Facebook. If they post pictures of their ministry you might be able to download some but make sure to check for permission to print or post them in other places. You may also be able to find out where they have been traveling recently and any family news.
- Check out their newsletters. Hopefully the missionaries are regular in their communications. Do a search in your inbox to see what they have been writing about recently. If they use a mail service like Mailchimp you can often find a link to the archives in each email. For instance you can find our email archives here.
- Call them or email them. If your missionary doesn’t have much information available online then you can always call or email them.
2. Communicate well
Before your missionary comes make sure you have connected with them several times. There are a few things you’ll want to make sure to communicate on.
- Service times and when he should plan on arriving (I like to arrive at least 20-30 mins before the services). Also how long he should plan to speak for each service.
- What he is expected to do. Do you want a ministry presentation? Do you want him to give a lesson in Sunday School? Would you like him to share in a specific group? Would you like him to preach? You may consider giving your missionary several options.
- Any specific driving directions or conditions he should be aware of.
- Discuss with him any technology needs; projector, computer, presentation software, etc…
- Ask if they need a place to stay.
- Let them know what if any are the plans for a meal after the service.
- Ask him who of his family if any might be coming along
- Make sure you exchange phone numbers just incase something unexpected happens last minute
- Let him know you are praying for their time in your church.
- Ask him if he has any questions or if there’s something he would like to do that you haven’t mentioned
3. Prepare the people
Believe it or not your missionary can tell how well you’ve prepared the people. It’s always strange to visit a church where few people even know who you are. There have been a few occasions where when we walked through the front door we were greeted with:
Hello, welcome to _______ Church, is this your first time here?
It’s always a bit awkward when I reply:
No, we’ve been here before, your church has been supporting us for 10+ years and I’m the guest speaker today!
Well at least you have to be glad that the church is actively greeting people as they come in the door.
So how do you prepare your people? First this is something that must be done year round and not just the week or two before your missionary is scheduled to speak. You need to be talking about missions, you need to have some avenue to share updates via your church’s email updates, and you should have updated information visible on the walls of the church somewhere prominent.
However, most important of all, you need to share regular updates about your missionaries on Sunday morning during the regular worship service. Churches that fail to do this should expect their people to be well informed about their missionaries.
Of course, several weeks before your missionary arrives it’s a good idea to pay special attention to that missionary. Show a few photos so your people will recognize the missionary when he arrives. Talk about some of the recent prayer requests and ask your people to be praying specifically for them. Also encourage your people to talk to the missionaries when they arrive, encourage them to ask questions about their lives and ministry, encourage them to ask if there is anyway they can be of aid to the missionaries.
4. Prepare the Church building
One thing that stood out to us on last Sunday’s visit to CVCF was how well they had prepared their facilities for our arrival. They had flags from every country in the world running through the sanctuary. Up front stood a Ukrainian flag and next to the flag was a giant information board about 8 feet wide and 4 feet high with a world map, a map of Ukraine, our picture and other information.
It was obvious that they had been waiting for us and we felt loved!
Beyond the flags and information in the sanctuary they also did a very detailed information board in the foyer, they printed out copies of our year-end report, they printed out about 2 dozen photos from our website including a large family photo from the recent wedding of our daughter Naomi, which they gifted to us after the service.
Finally, they made and excellent 8 page bulletin insert with information about our family, our ministry, our mission and our country! One thing I really liked about the bulletin insert was the suggested questions to ask us on the back page.
You can download the pdf here or view the pdf below.Suko Handout 2017 Final Draft
5. Plan your services
CVCF planned a full range of ways we could connect with their people that’s what we like. We shared in detail about our ministry in the Sunday School hour then I shared a little more during the worship service and preached. After the service they planned a potluck which gave us great time to informally get to know people and answer questions. Towards the end of the potluck they sat us down and had one of the men in the church interview us. All in all it was a full day and they pretty much maxed out the opportunities to connect with us.
As you think about your missionaries’ visit of course you want to plan to give them significant time during the regular worship service but also think of different ways that would allow them to connect with the people outside of the formal service time. Below are some ideas that I have seen work well in different churches.
- All church potluck with missionary answering informal questions from the people.
- No host lunch after the service at a local restaurant, especially if you can get a conference room.
- Church picnic if the weather allows.
- Dinner at a church members’ home with a few other interested families.
- Visiting small groups that either meet on Sunday nights or during the week.
- Any venue that would allow your missionary to have more time to interact with your people.
What has your church done to prepare for a missionary that I didn’t cover? Share your wisdom here so we can learn.