Do you think about the fact that there is a HUGE difference between being invited and feeling welcome? Honestly, I had not thought about it until a while back. There was something small that was being done at church with the youth group. My two older girls did not participate. When we got down to brass tacks on it, they both stated “we felt invited, just not welcome.”
So what makes the difference? What makes someone feel invited? What makes one feel welcome?
The dictionary.com definition is “make a polite, formal, or friendly request to (someone) to go somewhere or to do something.”
Do you get that? Invited is formal. It is polite. It is something that is not necessarily personal. It isn’t warm. But it is kind. Kindness is a good thing and being invited is a good thing.
There are times, though, when it is not enough. We need to feel welcome and we need to help others feel welcome.
The dictionary. com definition for this says “very pleasing because much needed or desired.”
Welcome says you are needed. Your presence is desired. You are wanted.
Both invited and welcome are friendly but one implies that your presence will make a difference.
If you can’t do welcoming, then definitely make sure to do inviting. But wouldn’t it be better if we were striving for more than invited?
God’s word directs us to do things that build each other up, to encourage one another.
I Thessalonians 5: 11 – Therefore encourage one another and build each other up. . .
I Thessalonians 4: 18 – Therefore encourage each other with these words.
Hebrews 3: 13 – But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Hebrews 10:25 – Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We also see the apostles sending others out to encourage the churches and exhorting those churches to be welcoming to those who are coming to them. Look at Ephesians, Colossians, and I Thessalonians for just a few letters sent along with someone to encourage churches in the first century.
I find it very easy to say “Yes, I am doing these things.” When in reality, it is taking every ounce of strength I have to be welcoming. But, that is the key isn’t it? Doing something for the building up and encouraging of the other person and not ourselves?
So, let’s get practical. How do we do things so that others feel welcomed, not just invited? I think it comes from the personal approach. When you have a large group and you say to the whole group “You all can do this thing,” we tend to be inviting. But it isn’t personal, is it? If we were to do the whole large group thing and THEN make sure that everyone has been personally asked, that would make a difference.
If something is being decided upon ahead of time, make that known in the large group invite but don’t assume that everyone knows. When decisions are made ahead of time and THEN you do a large group invitation, it is felt. Those who weren’t on the “decision” side of it feel left out and therefore, not welcome. Yes, decisions have to be made but we can ease that feeling of left out by the way we approach it and the way we word it. So, pay attention.
Acknowledge, also, that large group invitations are perhaps not the right way to make people feel welcome. They will feel invited and I will have done my part to “invite everyone.” But I won’t have made people feel welcomed. In this day of social media and electronic interactions, it takes being intentional and choosing relationship over ease.
But, in my life, I work at it. When our family has hosted devotionals, we have intentionally gone through and spoken to the people who were being invited. We did this in person or on the phone but we spoke to each person or family. When we are getting together somewhere with others, we talk to them; we do not send out group invitations that are impersonal.
We tend to host small get-togethers so that people feel like they are a part of it. When the girls enjoy an activity, they write letters that are personalized and hand-written to let others know that the activity was a hit and to encourage them to participate the next time.
We don’t do these successfully all the time but the point is that we try. At least part of the time, hoping to make a difference.
The key here, I think, is the personal interaction. I recognize that this is not possible for every single situation. But shouldn’t we try to make it? Aren’t we called to be family with those in the church?
One of the reasons I don’t like large gatherings is because of just this. I have worked really hard to not pass that feeling onto my girls. I guess I have not been successful in this. They don’t feel welcome, either. And that saddens me beyond words.
So, I am challenging you and myself – make it personal next time so that the person you are inviting to an event feels welcomed, not just invited.
Lori, At Home.