Occasionally, a word or theme will come up over and over in my life. Lately, this repetition has occurred with the word “connect.” To connect in our context means that we feel we can relate to and like or be liked by the people we are interacting with. The Biblical words that deal with connecting are words like: fellowship, hospitality, love, kindness and empathy. I think we all know the awkward feeling of getting in an elevator when there are already people on there, or walking into a room full of strangers for the first time. In a church setting things can be especially intimidating. I liken visiting a church for the first time to meeting your in-laws for the first time. There is usually a good deal of fear and trepidation. I think Satan uses that fear to keep people away from church or to hurt their opinions of churches. If someone comes to our church campus “expecting” us to be a certain way, it’s easy for them to “read into” little things and feel they are not welcome. On the other hand, it gives us an awesome opportunity to surprise them and help alleviate their fears. It is a very loving thing when we go out of our way to remove a person’s fears and help them to feel comfortable. Whether it is the person who helps them park their car, hands them a worship guide, or welcomes them with a friendly handshake and invites them to sit beside them, all of us play a role in helping others feel welcomed. Any time you see someone sitting alone you should always invite them to sit with you. No one should ever leave campus without a personal invitation to a Sunday school class. Even though you may not be sure if they are members or not, it shouldn’t matter. Just say, “I’m not sure if I’ve met you, if so I’m sorry but I’m….” Do whatever it takes to be sure that when people leave your presence, they feel valued. Remember, you are Jesus’ representative here on earth and He welcomes anyone and everyone who will come to Him. We can be no different. No matter what the age of the person you encounter, there is no one who wants to feel like they are being excluded or unwanted. My hope is that God will use us to help others to connect with Christ and with our church. I pray that we will go out of our way to ensure that everyone who visits our church leaves knowing that God loves them and that we also love them.