The Question: What is the motivation to come to a church? Who wants to be eyed, looked at, or seen as the outsider in a new environment? Why do churches not provide a welcoming atmosphere? Many say they do, but do they truly? Calling out new members for first time attendees in front of everyone to recognize them is not exactly welcoming, asking them to introduce themselves, the congregation being asked to approach them and talk to them, etc. Many times, an uncomfortable situation is placed on a new attendee, not in all instances, but in many, that drives new people away. Why would a church do that or foster that?
The Answer: This question will be answered more from a preference standpoint and less from a “Biblical” standpoint, although one could throw a couple of Bible verses out that encourage followers of Jesus to be in community with each other. For instance, apparently some church people 2,000 years ago had the same questions you have today, so the author of Hebrews said in Hebrews 10:25, “do not neglect the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some has become, but exhort/encourage one another…” We’re told over 50 times in the NT to “________ one another” (whether that be love, honor, serve, encourage, etc.) and so in order to do that, we need to actually know one another and worship Jesus with one another. Will ALL those “one another’s” happen on a Sunday morning? Absolutely not… BUT, Sunday morning is where it begins. We’re told in 1 Corinthians that we (collectively) are the body of Christ, and we (individually) are members of the body, so when the body is missing parts, it doesn’t function fully as it should. Think of it like team-work - when the team isn’t functioning well or when team members are missing, the team collectively won’t be as strong as it can be.
Now, as to your other questions about being welcoming, I’ll be totally up front - I went to a church for years where visitors were called out in front of everyone, and where there was a “hand shake time” to “meet and greet” new people. It was UNBELIEVABLY uncomfortable and awkward, and I regularly thought if I were a new person at this church, after experiencing that, I wouldn’t come back.
I think some churches (not all) have gone a bit overboard in attempting to be welcoming. They, as you’d mentioned, almost put the newbies on display in an attempt to honor them, but it really embarrasses or frustrates, or maybe even scares them. On the flip side, I’ve seen some churches completely IGNORE visitors, and expect the newbie to make the first contact with someone, which can be just as equally frustrating.
So, I’ll speak for CommUNITY Church - here, you’ll be warmly welcomed by one or two people as you come through the doors, and will be given a program that tells a little about us. You’ll be asked to fill out a Green Card (just like the ENTIRE congregation is asked to do every week, so people aren’t looking around for the “noobs” filling out the card) and drop it in the offering box on your way out the door after the service. A personal letter will be sent to you, thanking you for being a part of the congregation on that Sunday, and inviting you back to hang out with us again, at your convenience. A follow-up call or email may happen, but sometimes it doesn’t because we want friends to feel welcomed and invited back, but not overcrowded or pushed into anything. At the end of the day, we’re honored to serve and pastor you and your family as you allow, and we welcome and accept ANYONE and EVERYONE, no matter their background or current situations.
We know that as you continue to join us and become a part of the CommUNITY, God will challenge you as He challenges us, so there’s no judgment of anyone else because they sin differently than us… we’re all on the journey together, and we want to encourage each other and build each other up and help each other… NOT tear each other down or be a discouragement, or even judgmental.
So, it sounds like you’ve had some rough experiences at churches. I encourage you to take note, but don’t give up. Try another and another and another until you find somewhere that:
1. preaches the Word of God clearly,
2. helps you feel welcomed but not on display, and
3. provides opportunities for you to get involved at your pace.
I hope this helps… and by all means, you’re welcome to try out CommUNITY Church. Everyone’s welcome; nobody’s perfect; ANYTHING’S possible.