I prepared this for my church and shared it on the church website. You might like to adapt it for your own context.
Church doesn't start when the band starts playing – it starts as God's people gather together! There's lots of good reasons to arrive early – not least of all more time to fellowship together. Arriving early is also an act of service to others as we welcome new people (see point 3), and offer to help with anything that might need to happen before the service starts.
45 minutes before the start of most services (8am and 9.45am excepted), we meet together to pray for the service. This is a very important part of the service – committing all we do to God, and asking for him to be glorified in our time together. Please don't be put off if you're daunted about praying in a group – you don't need to pray, but your presence would be a great encouragement!
We all know what it's like to go to an event where we don't know anyone else. It's awkward and uncomfortable. New people visit our church each week, and this is how they're feeling! The simple act of saying hi to a newcomer is a great way to help them feel more comfortable, and is a practical way to love others as we would like to be loved (who enjoys standing awkwardly on their own?!).
When new people come to church, they're nervous enough already, without being required to walk to the front of church to find a seat! When regulars sit close to the front, it makes it less awkward for newcomers to slip in the back unnoticed.
When the time comes, even though you might have nothing new to say, it makes it much easier for the newcomer to fill out a Next Steps card when they're not the only one doing it. If you're struggling to think of something to write (and even if you're not!), why not share a prayer or praise point on the reverse of the card.
Church is more like a home than a hotel – we each need to take responsibility for caring for how it looks, and not expect others to do this for us. When you see rubbish lying around (e.g. papers around the bin in the bathroom), please don't wait for someone else to pick it up.
At church each week, we're served by others who prepare morning tea, preach, give the kids talk, pray, welcome, clean the kitchen, care for the children in creche – you get the idea! Let's not take each other for granted, but instead make the most of every opportunity to encourage one another and build each other up.
After the closing song, take the opportunity to chat with others about the sermon. Reflect on how you were challenged, and share how God has encouraged you through His word. If it's appropriate, spend a few minutes praying – on your own, or with the people sitting nearby.
Many hands make light work! Don't forget to take your sermon notes with you – and read the weekly newsletter article when you get home (not during the sermon!).
There can be a bit of mess left behind after each service – apple cores, coffee cups, drink bottles, tissues! If we each take responsibility for our own rubbish, packing up after the service will be very quick (and apple-free!).
If you're chatting with someone after church and they mention something that would be good to pray for, pray then. Don't say “I'll be sure to pray for that later”, because you may forget. And it's also really encouraging and worthwhile to pray right then and there.
What would you add to this list?
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