It's hard to try out a new church. I've tried a ton of them before I was a pastor. The worries mount up: Not sure if there will be anyone there like me, nervous that I won't be dressed right, a little overwhelmed by the happy people (or will they be serious?) standing at the entrance as I walk in...and if that's not enough, having to ask "Where's the bathroom". It's awkward! 

As far as churches go, Light of the Valley is very welcoming. However, "feeling welcome" can also be more about the one visiting than about the church, it's a feeling. If someone has an unspoken expectation that isn't met, how will that make them feel? It might be a "deal breaker", or it might simply be informative for you to see where your experience can help our church grow! It all depends on how you see church and your place in it.

Give it a few chances. There are things about your visit that are uncontrollable. You may not feel welcome because most of the people on welcome wagon are sick or out of town? So, it could just be a fluke that you chose to check it out on an odd Sunday. So, give it a few attempts, you may be surprised at how it looks on another day.

We are a family church. By that I mean, like a family, we have people of all ages in the same church having fellowship, worshiping, growing, thriving, struggling, and working all together. Of course, we have Sunday school for kids, Bible Studies for teens and adults, counseling for whoever, and resources for those in need.

Identify what you are truly looking for. Just because our church does stuff, doesn't really say much about the atmosphere of welcome-ness. Some people are more searching for something that suits them as a person or a family. Perhaps they are looking to grow in faith and understanding of the Bible, or maybe they want to find new friends. It’s a complicated thing to appeal to the masses while also satisfying the felt needs of the individual. So, looking for a welcoming church is a good thing, but I’m not sure that’s what people are really looking for. Feeling welcome is just the invite to come and explore the real reasons people visit.

Don’t be shallow. Sometimes people look for many things that really have little or nothing to do with church (watch the video at the bottom). They may be looking for a particular demographic to be represented, age, family type, new or old facility, formal or informal styles, engaging preaching, interesting teaching, fun for the kids, location… the list is long. Everyone comes hoping to find “the perfect church” – it doesn't exist, unless you are able to see the people in it the way God sees them.

Who is in the congregation? The church is full of sinners who have found hope in the forgiveness given by Jesus. Nonetheless, we are all flawed people and that is not a secret. We are flawed people who God sees as perfect because of what Jesus has done for us in his death and resurrection. While we have broken hearts, rebellious tendencies, unnatural habits, and nasty secrets…God still loves us. We know we are sinful and we know that we can never be “good enough” to earn God’s favor, much less eternal life. That is what makes church so cool. It’s one of the only places where a bunch of broken people can gather and witness God working through them in awesome ways.

Seek a relationship. So, in evaluating a church, we need to choose how we treat our relationship with Jesus. Some choose to be consumers of churches much like we consume entertainment, recreation, books, etc... saying, “We’re church shopping.” When the movie lets out, we get in our car and go off to our “normal life”, when church is done we can easily snap right back into our typical days business.

Or, we can be experiencers who approach life with the desire to encounter Jesus in every place we are. We hope to spend time with God. We seek a close relationship with Jesus in our walking, talking, singing, crying, laughing, fighting, and eating. One perspective that always helps me is to see everything as a gift. Today is a gift because without God giving it, I wouldn't have it. My job is a gift, while many people are out of work or work in much harsher conditions, I work here and that’s great. My scars are a gift, they remind me of the amazing miracle that God created when he made us able to heal.

We want you to be our honored guest, not just a visitor. Your visiting us as our guest is an honor to us and you should be welcomed very warmly. If you aren't welcomed or you think we can grow from your experience, please let me know. We are not perfect, but we are responsible for the message we send. Let me start by saying, "You're more than welcome, you are really, really, really ridiculously welcome at Light of the Valley!"



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