13th September 2018
One of the best things about being on sabbatical is the opportunity it brings to visit other churches. I love being at King's, but it is refreshing to attend a meeting and have none of the usual responsibilities that come with being in leadership. You also experience for yourself what it is like to walk into a church for the very first time.
This summer, Deb and I visited several churches, both in this country and in the USA. For the first time in a long while, we saw churches through the eyes of a first-time visitor. We quickly realised the importance of a good church website. Unless you are being taken along by a friend, the website is where you go for key information: What time are the services? Where do they meet? How do I get there? And most important of all if you are driving, where can I park? It was this last question which was often left unanswered.
For most London churches, a car park is an unimaginable luxury, and parking is a constant challenge. We were particularly impressed with the parking stewards at Jesus House, north London, who did an outstanding job directing everyone looking for a parking spot nearby, while also helping others leaving the earlier service. Potential chaos was avoided and everything was managed confidently and with a smile!
I realised afresh just how many little hurdles you face when arriving somewhere new. While visiting The King’s Arms in Bedford (whose website does tell you they have an on-site car park!) we took a wrong turn, found ourselves in a traffic jam, abandoned our car in a supermarket car park, and arrived after the service had started! This is quite funny when you consider that both Deb and I grew up in Bedford and should know it pretty well – but it was a while since we had been to that part of town.
Assuming you have parked successfully, the next question is where to go. Clear signage is vital, as are identifiable stewards who are on the look-out for visitors. At some venues it simply wasn’t clear where we needed to go, especially if you entered a foyer full of people chatting. The next decision was where to sit. As someone who has a great passion for chair layout (we call it chairology at King’s!) it was interesting to experience for myself the dilemma of where to sit. Of course Deb and I did not have the added pressure of working out where to take children. Our visits gave us a fresh appreciation for friendly stewards, ready to help.
First impressions are so important when visiting somewhere new. We can become so familiar with our home church that we fail to see it through the eyes of a visitor. We enjoyed being at all the churches we went to this summer and experienced a very warm welcome at each of them. Even when you are as familiar with church as we are, a friendly smile and warm welcome have a lasting, positive effect on your experience of a new place.
We know that most Sundays at King’s we are likely to have around 20 people who have never joined us before. This weekend we have baptisms across the church and expect closer to 100 visitors. Let’s look out for new people and make sure they receive a very warm King’s welcome.
Posted by Steve Tibbert
Steve Tibbert leads King’s Church London, with sites in Catford, Downham and Lee. Over the past fifteen years the church has seen continued growth, both in size and diversity. Steve is also involved in Newfrontiers and regularly coaches other lead elders. His book, Good to Grow, was published in July 2011. He is married to Deb, and they have three sons.