The encouragement you personally offer people before and after the message may be as vital to their spiritual growth as the sermon itself.
Saddleback Church’s Lake Forest campus is situated in a beautiful spot in southern California, where the sun shines most of the time. So we’ve been able to save money most churches have to spend on facilities by using outdoor spaces.
There is a rooftop terrace that serves as a venue where families can go to watch the service. The baptistery is outside, surrounded by chairs for friends and family to watch and cheer on their loved ones who’ve trusted Christ. And there is a large patio filled with tables and a bookstore. This is where we send people for more resources, for small group curriculum, to sign up for various events and areas of service, and to greet one another. And just off the patio is an area called the Prayer Garden, where our ministers can meet and pray with people who are hurting.
One of my favorite places to be on any given weekend is the patio. I love people! And when the message is over, whenever possible, I head outside and ask our other Pastors to go with me to greet people, to hug people, to make friends and to pray with people.
When you serve a church of tens of thousands, it’s impossible to personally interact with every individual attender. And this is true of many churches with more than a couple hundred attenders. But this is never an excuse for retreating in isolation from the people to whom you preach during the service. As my friend, Andy Stanley, often says, “We should do for the one what we wish we could do for the many.”
As you greet people before and after the service, you’re preparing the way for them to receive the message. Here are at least three things to give to the attenders you interact with outside the service.
- A welcoming face.
- A meaningful touch.
- An encouraging word.
Many people who walk onto your campus on Sunday haven’t had a friendly conversation or a meaningful, positive touch all week long. Your smile, your demeanor, your openness to people can pave the way for life change to happen. Your hug, your handshake, your pat on the back may send a message of affirmation and acceptance that you may never fully understand yourself. And in a world of constant criticism and negativity, your words of encouragement can lift the broken soul.
You’re going to work hard this week preparing a sermon for Sunday. But don’t neglect the message you’ll preach before and after the service.