If you’ve visited a new church for the first time, you can likely relate to the confusion and unfamiliarity in these sentiments:
- Do I stand or sit during this song?
- I forgot my Bible. Is there one under my seat? Do I need to grab one from the usher?
- How do we take communion here? Is it open to everyone? Is there a common cup?
- Where is the bathroom?
With the approaching Easter service, many churches will have an influx of new attendees as well as changes in the typical service routine as we remember the crucifixion and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
How can your church welcome all? Offer a preview with your website.
Take full advantage of your church website. Just as many of us Google our hotels and vacation spots so we can see what they look like ahead of time, many individuals benefit from a preview of what to expect at church.
What can a church website show before a person ever visits?
- Show a collage of people worshiping: Can you raise your hands? Is there a piano? Band? Organ? Do you use hymnbooks and where are they kept?
- Play snippets of the music. Perhaps include a song you will actually sing on Easter Sunday.
- Offer a picture tour. Include the sanctuary, hallways, classrooms, or a layout of the building. How can you help people feel comfortable before they even walk through your doors?
- Show how communion works. Let people know the process, what it means to your church, and who and how you participate. Does your church offer gluten-free options for those wishing to participate in the Lord’s Supper?
- Provide a schedule. Do you know the order of worship for Easter Sunday? Some people benefit from a schedule. If you click on that schedule, people may even be able to print it off on their home printer and take it along so they know what comes next. If you include words and pictures of the event, readers and non-readers can enjoy the schedule. (WARNING…I suggest you not include times, but only a sequence of events. Some individuals get upset if you are off by a minute or two if the time is listed.)
- Think about Sunday School. Will Sunday School students have a special role in the Palm Sunday or Easter service? Are they singing a certain song or acting out a scene? Some children benefit from previewing their role ahead of time through pictures (or even a story, think of the Church Welcome Story) of the event. Help them anticipate and understand their role by providing visuals beforehand (online or in person).
- Who’s who? Are there key people identified by a name badge or special clothing? Do you have an area where you can ask questions? Make sure your website covers that and even includes pictures and names of key people that visitors may meet on Easter Sunday.
For more ideas, explore The Easter Book from Friendship Ministries, which contains a plethora of activities, crafts, and tips to help persons with unique needs respond to the love of Jesus. If your church wants to help individuals preview your church in a more personalized way, walk them through the Church Welcome Story. We shared ideas for communicating the Gospel and the love of Jesus with persons with disabilities in these previous posts, Sharing Jesus with a Child with Down syndrome and Sharing the Christmas Story with Kids with Disabilities.
Offering a preview can help in areas outside of church too, like before a family vacation. Learn how to create a preview of your family vacation so it can be enjoyable for all family members.
Barbara J. Newman is the director of church services and a teacher consultant at CLC Network. She also teaches at Zeeland Christian School and is the author of several books, including Autism and Your Church, The Easter Story, and Body Building: Devotions to Celebrate Inclusive Community.
Tory White works in the Church Services Division at CLC Network. By God’s grace, she has been a part of the inclusion support staff at Zeeland Christian School since 2005, and has spent nearly a lifetime working in children’s ministry.
Jacki Sikkema has a background in Special Education and currently serves in the Church Services Division at CLC Network.