When I was serving as a worship pastor, my uncle gave me some advice I’ve never forgotten: “Walk slowly through the pews.”
I was 18 years old and serving my first church. A little church out in the country. My uncle (a veteran minister) was coming to visit and I eagerly awaited his feedback. I was a worship pastor back then and my uncle had been a worship pastor since the 70s. His words to me? “Walk slowly through the pews.”
I didn’t understand. I had sung well and led the choir and worship without messing up. I had smiled and sweated and given my all. However, my uncle noticed me rushing through the crowd—always busy and heading somewhere to do something. Flying by the people that were gathering to worship. It’s been over twenty years and I still remember that advice.
I try to walk slowly through my church. I try to make eye contact and shake hands and give out hugs. I go out of my way to be accessible and approachable. This has defined me as a pastor. I seek to put people first and realize it’s all about them. This is a chapter in my first book Church Leadership Essentials.
This is why I’m passionate about hospitality. It’s all about people. Always has been. Always will be people. Ministry is about people.
In the last year, I’ve worked with churches where I saw staff members hurrying around past people. One was a frantic children’s minister. The other was a worship leader with other things on his mind.
Take time to notice people, talk to people, and build relationships. Lead pastors: This goes for you, too. They don’t want to just hear your message, they want to meet you. I cover this in the next to last chapter of my book Secrets of a Secret Shopper.
How is walking slowly through the pews possible? Preparation. Don’t wait until the last minute to get things done. Be prepared and ready for your duties so that you can relax, worship, and enjoy fellowship with God’s people.
So, my two cents to you, my friends: Walk slowly through the halls of church and in the auditorium. Smile. Shake hands. Give hugs. Let your people know you love them.
Greg Atkinson is a leadership coach and guest-services consultant with more than two decades of ministry experience. This article originally appeared on GregAtkinson.com.