What To Expect From: Church for the first time
Going to a new church can be a really nerve-wracking experience, whether you’re a seasoned-church goer or it’s your very first time. You’ll probably have a lot of questions: Where do I sit? Will anyone talk to me? What do I wear?!
Not knowing what to expect can often be the scariest thing about stepping into a new place, so a few of our writers have shared their experiences of their first time in a new church.
I’m not one to enjoy new social situations at all, so going to a new church for the first time was very daunting! The first time I arrived at my church I was surprised at how incredibly warmly I was welcomed. The leader of the church came over to introduce himself immediately, before introducing me to another student, who introduced me to her friends throughout the morning. There were people floating around on the welcome team to help anyone who needed direction and to greet people as they arrived, and tea and cake was offered to everyone before the service even began. Everyone was so lovely and I instantly felt comfortable.
There were multiple events put on to integrate newcomers and to help us feel at home within the church. I really felt that these events were a way for the church to get to know me and find out how they could make me feel welcome, rather than a way to reel me in and make sure I couldn’t leave! At the beginning of each academic year my church held student lunches at someone’s house or at a pub, paid for by the church (very attractive for students!). I went to one on my first visit, then each week after that. They also held regular newcomers lunches which were a great way to get to know people within the church, and I was made to feel part of my new church family very quickly.
I’ve been in and out of church quite a lot in my life; I was raised in church and went every Sunday with my family. For many reasons, when I was teenager I stopped going all together. Many years later, my now-husband, Jude, invited me to go along to his church to listen to his dad give the preach. While I wanted to go, I found making the decision to go really hard. Because of my previous experiences with church growing up, I felt very nervous and didn’t know what to expect.
Thankfully Jude managed to persuade me to go and in hindsight it was the best decision I could have made! The people I met on that Sunday morning back in November 2011 were so welcoming and lovely that it made me want to go back again and again. I’ve since made loads of good friends and have been baptised.
I get really scared of new environments and experiences, so even though I was absolutely terrified to go to church that first time, being encouraged to push through the fear and nerves turned out to be the best thing for me. I’m now always reminded to think of the positive outcomes of every situation, because you’ll never know the impact they will have on your life.
I was first invited to church by some of my friends from sixth-form and I mainly went along to be polite and to get them to stop asking me to come! I wasn’t a Christian and was a bit apprehensive because I didn’t know the protocol. To be honest, my biggest concern was what to wear – would my skirt be too short? Do Christians care about stuff like that these days?!
Not knowing what to expect, I was initially nervous but going along with one of my closest friends was reassuring. I was surprised to find the church was really modern and wasn’t even in a conventional church building. It was a large and there were lots of people milling about, chatting and drinking coffee, and there was pop music playing – no organ to be seen! I was introduced to a few people whose names I immediately forgot, handed a cup of tea and got chatting to a few people who were sitting nearby.
The service began with a few worship songs led by a band at the front. I didn’t know any of them and they didn't sound like the traditional hymns I was used to, but I hummed along and enjoyed the music, while taking furtive glances at the people around me! It was interesting to see how people were singing – some people had their hands in the air, some people were just stood, or sat. There was then a short talk by the leader of the church and more worship at the end. The whole service was really relaxed, but it did take me a few visits to really get comfortable with the format and to start recognising faces.
I’ve since been the newbie at lots of different churches where I’ve been worried about sitting by myself, but too nervous to talk to anyone! Luckily, one thing always happens – people will talk to you! Most likely, they won’t recognise you and will make an effort to say hello and find out a bit about you. When finding a church while at uni, I took the plunge and went along by myself. I can get a bit shy when I first meet people, and I was really nervous and intimidated, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made – I was immediately welcomed into a community and am still really good friends with the people I met on that first Sunday morning, despite now living in a completely different city!
When you go along to a new church, just remember that the people you talk to just want to make you feel welcome and put you at ease - after all, they were new to church once too!
Why is church important?
Here are a few verses to help us and encourage us! (All taken from The Message).
Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ—the Message—have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives—words, actions, whatever—be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. Colossians 3:16-17
So let’s do it—full of belief, confident that we’re presentable inside and out. Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching. Hebrews 10:25
I can’t impress this on you too strongly. God is looking over your shoulder. Christ himself is the Judge, with the final say on everyone, living and dead. He is about to break into the open with his rule, so proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple. 2 Timothy 4:2