A church should be a safe place, one where you are welcomed and a place equipped to flourish — but for a lot of people, that doesn’t sound like the home they know. Is it possible we’re sending the wrong message when we say “Welcome Home”?
Before we get too far in this post, let me start with a disclaimer. I know that the moment some of you read this title, you were already defending the reason you use the “welcome home” phrase as your church’s leading message. You assume that if some of the most notable churches in the nation are saying “Welcome Home,” then they must be right and I must be wrong. But this isn’t about being right or wrong, it’s about building an effective ministry. So, if you’re goal is to reach as many people who are far from God as possible, at least read this all the way through.
And no, this post isn’t a slam against any other church that has “Welcome Home” as their leading message. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. This article is a plea for you to rethink the way you speak to your community so that the local church can flourish.
If you’re still with me, let’s go.
All it took was one of the most notable churches in the world to plaster “Welcome Home” across their building. It wasn’t long after that before I began seeing other churches do the same. Today, there are hundreds of churches leading with this message on their website, banners, and print material. The message of “Welcome Home” made me cringe a bit the first time that I saw it and it still does. Let’s look at why.
For many, home wasn’t a safe or welcoming place
I grew up in a home where my parents were married for thirty four years before my mom passed away. I watched my dad remain completely in love with my mom for all of those years. He was a hard worker, pastoring a church and carrying a vocational job at the same time. My mom was the epitome of a nurturing mom. My siblings and I grew up friends, not enemies. Beside the weekly spankings growing up (which I deserved), our home was a very safe place and memories of it evoke the warmest of memories.
But what I knew to be home isn’t the reality for everyone.
According to Childhelp.com, there are reports of child abuse every 10 seconds in America and over 700,000 children are abused annually in the United States alone. According to National Children’s Alliance, 90% of alleged abusers were family members, over 40% of which were a parent — the very people kids are supposed to be able to trust.
Children are abused annually in the United States. 90% of alleged abusers were family members, over 40% of which were a parent.
Now, think about your congregation and your city. Is it possible that there are adults that you have in your congregation and are trying to reach in your city that could’ve grown up in the circumstances I just described? Is it possible that when they think of home, they think about the mental or physical abuse they experienced?
And then there are other major issues like divorce, alcoholic parents, and poverty that create a bad perception of home. The major issues are nearly impossible to avoid and all of these issues are prevalent in Christian homes — not just homes where faith, church, or Christ are absent.
Church isn’t home — and it doesn’t have to be
I understand why churches are saying “Welcome Home.” You want your leading message to evoke the good feelings that someone should associate with when they think about home. I know people in your congregation will say that your church feels like home or that consider their church community as a family that walks through life with them, and that’s true. But that doesn’t mean it is home.
Even for me, as someone who loves my church and someone who has people at my church that have become close to me like family, it still doesn’t match to the feeling I get coming home to my house where I get smothered by my son when I walk in the door and I have my wife waiting for me with a smile. When I’m away on a business trip and tell someone that I can’t wait to get home, guess what? It’s not my church that I’m referencing.
No matter how great your church is, it is not the place they go home to every night of the week. In fact, if the statistics are true, they’re probably only coming “home” to church once or twice a month. That sounds more like people are stopping by to say hello than they are “coming home”.
But maybe you’re able to defend all the points above, so let me ask it to you a little more directly: How many pastors would say that your church is your home? How many pastors tell their wives goodbye in the morning to head to the church and say, “I’ll see you later, I’m heading home”? If you wouldn’t describe your church as home, then why would it be home to someone who is even less invested in it?
"If you wouldn’t describe your church as home, then why would it be home to someone who is even less invested in it?"share
We’re searching for something home can’t provide
What if we put ourselves in the shoes of someone landing on our website or showing up on at our church for the first time? Most people aren’t looking for a church because they don’t have a home. Most people are looking for a church to have a place that can meet a felt need that they have – and it’s probably a need they aren’t getting met at home, or they wouldn’t be looking for you.
People aren’t shopping for a home when they’re looking for a church; they’re looking for a place to reconnect or connect for the first time spiritually. They want to find healing, restoration, peace, grace, and purpose. Does the first thing you communicate spark hope, inspire, and show that your church is a place that understands where they are and what they need? “Welcome Home” may not be a bad statement, but it’s taking up real estate that you could be using to creating better connections with those you’re trying to reach.
Your messaging should be as unique as your church
Don’t you have a voice of your own? As a church, don’t you have a unique purpose that God wired you for and designed you for? In one city alone, I’ve found more than three or four churches using the same leading message of “Welcome Home.” Could you imagine how confusing that is to someone looking for a church? It’d be like McDonalds, Burger King, and Wendy’s all using the slogan “I’m lovin’ it.” Sounds ridiculous, but it’s exactly the same thing.
By taking the easy road and using the same messages as other churches, you’re making yourself one of many. There’s no distinction, there’s no unique message and voice being conveyed, and you’re limiting yourself by imitating what you’ve seen others use. Even though the churches aren’t in competition, it doesn’t mean we need to resort to using the exact same messages as other churches. Your church is wired to live out God’s purpose for your church in a unique way and your messaging should communicate that clearly. Your words, even more than your images in many cases, carry the ability to create instant connections, buy-in, and belief.
I said at the beginning that this post wasn’t about being right or wrong. It’s meant to challenge you to ask if you’re being as effective as possible. I’m convinced only you can answer that, but I think a great starting point would be for you and your team to ask yourself these questions:
- Are we clearly communicating how we’re uniquely wired as a church?
Are you ready to start communicating the right message to your church and your city?get started