As a mom, I could get our house ready without stress, five days a week, to go to school and work. But Sunday mornings were always stressful! I quickly learned that Satan is the reason. He doesn’t care if we go to school or work but he does not want us to go to worship! Think about it - isn’t Sunday morning harder? I started recognizing it for what it was and then I was even more determined to get to church stress free!
Have you ever been kind of anxious to attend an event of some kind and everything goes wrong while you try to get ready? Before you know it, you have run out of time. Your outfit is not right and you have to make last minute changes. Now you are late. Then you get there and you cannot find anywhere to park and you are late. What do you do? I have been known to turn around and go home!
Growing up, my mom sometimes stayed in the upper room (prayer room) during the service. She said before the prayer request came in they started by praying for those running late and for those trying to find a parking space. They prayed for them not to get discouraged and to come on in to worship. I think about how stressful it is for visitors and for those who have never been to church. Going to church for the first time is a huge step. I am sure it wouldn’t take much for some people to want to turn around! And if they do, I doubt they will come back the next Sunday.
The first time I came to PVUMC we had no idea where to go but we followed the traffic. We parked in front of the gym. As we turned into the parking lot a nice man with a bright vest smiled and waved like he knew us. I commented to my husband how nice that was. The second and third Sunday I was sure he must remember us by that smile! They were glad we were here! It was nice to feel like we belonged. (We quickly gave those spaces up to other newcomers.) Those servants who help direct traffic and park cars make the first impression! I love to watch Mark Edquid in the parking lot! He always has the biggest smile, telling people, “welcome to worship!” Even our visiting pastor, for revival, mentioned our parking lot ministry!! Mark told me that out of all of his “jobs” here - working the parking lot is his favorite. It shows! Hebrews 13:1, “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.” Our parking lot servants are showing Christ’s love!
Romans 15:7, “So warmly welcome each other into the church, just as Christ has warmly welcomed you; then God will be glorified.” TLB Paul’s teaching shows us that we are glorifying God by welcoming one another as Christ has already welcomed us! As Christians we have a responsibility at church to be welcoming. Again, we are told that we are to be welcoming to visitors in Matthew 25:35, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in...” One of the biggest reasons visitors do not return to a church is that they do not feel welcome. We should welcome visitors into our church home like we would welcome someone into our own home. None of us would greet someone and turn and walk away but that is what often happens. How we treat a visitor will greatly ease their anxiety in an unfamiliar space. Let’s not just greet them but when they leave let’s tell them, “I’m glad you came. I hope to see you again.” Chances are, we will.
Being a parking lot greeter is something of immeasurable value! If you are interested in glorifying God by welcoming those to worship with a smile and kind word, please let one of the parking lot greeters (wearing bright vests) know, or you can contact Mark Edquid in the church office. God needs your servant heart!