One great thing about heaven is, no one will ever feel awkward or out of place there. People from every culture will be perfectly united in love for God and one another! But here on earth, people frequently have to venture beyond their cultural comfort zone to do something that may seem very normal to you—visit or attend church. You can adapt the following suggestions to make people from any number of cultures more comfortable in your congregation.
In one-to-one conversations or small group settings:
- Remember that being Jewish does not make a person fluent in Hebrew or an expert on the Bible or Judaism.
- Show an interest in visitors with “get-to-know-you” conversations about where they’re from, what kind of work they do, etc., but don’t focus on asking “Jewish” questions. The same goes for introductions. When you say, “I’d like to introduce you to Ben and Judy Friedman,” there is no need to add, “They’re Jewish.”
- If the conversation lends itself, thank the visitors for coming to the church and ask what brought them to the service.
- Most of us (Jews for Jesus staff) have been to one or more churches where someone thought we might enjoy a “Jewish joke.” This probably isn’t you, but please let anyone who is given to such jokes know that they will have the opposite effect on any Jewish visitor.
- If a Jewish believer in Jesus chooses to wear traditional garments (such as a yarmulke) or mentions celebrating Jewish festivals, realize this does not mean that they are “under the Law.”
From the pulpit:
- It’s nice if the person who does announcements acknowledges that all visitors are most welcome and are invited to “join in on any songs, prayers, or practices only as you feel comfortable.”
- Alternating the English word “Christ” with the Hebrew word “Messiah” and occasionally using Jesus’ Hebrew name “Yeshua” can help people feel they are in a Jewish-friendly place.
- Likewise, when communion is served, mentioning that Jesus spoke these words as He celebrated Passover will be meaningful to Jewish visitors.
- Avoid talking about “the Jews” unless the term appears in a Scripture you are reading, in which case, please explain the context: this is a Jewish person writing about a particular group of Jewish people in Judea.
- When speaking of Israel or Jerusalem, please avoid political commentary, but likewise remember that these are not merely ancient or symbolic lands; they are real, modern places, and Jewish people attending your service may even have friends or relatives who live there.
If there’s a meal after the service:
- Many visitors will not feel comfortable joining you unless someone specifically invites them and actually sits and visits with them during the meal.
Jewish people, like any others, may have food restrictions—either for religious or health reasons. If you organize your potluck tables so guests can easily tell what dishes contain nuts, dairy products, or wheat, it would be thoughtful to add “pork” and “shellfish” to the list.