I recently went on a weekend away with three other mums and our bubs.
After going for a walk around the scenic like we found a cafe to stop and have a coffee. The first thing we saw as we walked to the door was a sign saying that customers were forbidden to have “just coffee” after 11.30 in the morning. As it was only just passed 11 AM we felt confident that our short stop would be okay and so we entered the building without prams.
If we felt the sign out the front was a little unwelcoming it paled in significance to the reception we received from the first staff member we encountered.
When she discovered we were only coming for coffee she rolled her eyes and said, “Well you can just sit there,” pointing to a large table by the door where someone was already eating.
She never came to our table with a menu, she didn’t give us a bottle of water with glasses and she never came over to take our order. I thought maybe I was being a little over sensitive but one of the other mothers leaned over to me and said, “Do you get the feeling we’re not wanted?!” It was appalling.
I totally understand the frustration for cafes and restaurants of people coming in, taking up a lot of room and not ordering much food. But let me point out to you that the restaurant was empty except for 2 other tables. And we only stayed for 30 minutes. We had actually considered coming back there for lunch the next day but decided that it didn’t matter how good the menu was, we were not keen to give them any more of our business.
The next day we found another cafe to have lunch at. Our experience could not have been more different. The first staff member who greeted us at the door unlatched the double doors to help us with our prams. He put us down the back of the cafe so we could spread out. He located as many high chairs as we needed and sat down with us to talk through the menu. He engaged with our babies and made sure we had everything we needed. As we left, with our friendly waiter carrying our prams down the front steps, we felt encouraged and appreciated and if I lived closer I would go back there in a heartbeat.
The first person we met at each place set the tone for how we felt.
It was such a big reminder for me when thinking about new people attending our churches, our small groups and even our playgroups. The first person they meet can determine their entire experience. And how we welcome people can flavour their lasting opinion.
It’s challenging to step out of our own circle of known friends to engage with someone we’ve never met before. But it could be the difference to someone truly connecting into a faith community.
Lord, You welcome us with open arms. Help us to do the same for those searching for You. Amen.
How can you be more welcoming to people in the groups you attend?
This article was written by Linda Bailey
Linda started theological studies in 1999 in Australia. After working for ten years in various church ministries, she now works as the breakfast producer at 89.9 LightFM - the Christian radio station in Melbourne, Australia. She writes blogs every day about passages she is currently reading in the Bible. Follow her on Google Plus +Linda Bailey or Facebook by clicking the like button on the right of this page.