Monday, April 27, 2015

13 Tips for a Visitor Friendly Church

"Thou shalt greet visitors."

Okay, so this one didn't make it to the Ten Commandments, but being kind and welcoming to guests in our congregations is very important, and not so we can keep our pews filled.  Every visitor who comes through our doors has the potential to be a seeker, an unbeliever who has questions about Jesus and the church.  If we are an unwelcoming, insular group of people, then that visitor may never come back to our church or any other.  More than losing a warm body, we may be losing a soul.  So how can we be more welcoming to the new faces who walk through our doors?  We have a few tips today that we challenge you to read and follow in the weeks to come. 

  • Look for visitors.  It sounds obvious, but sometimes in the shuffle between class and worship while we are wrangling kids or running to the bathroom, we may fail to even notice there is a new face.

  • Don't rely on the formal greeters.  It is wonderful to have a greeting program to make sure no one falls through the cracks, but visitors will notice if the only people to greet them are the ones who have to.

  • Welcome packs. Many congregations have welcome packs that include information about the congregation and the neighborhood.  Make sure your guests get one. 

  • Help them find their way around.  Help the family members find their respective Sunday School classes, the nursery, and the bathroom if needed.  Don't make them rely on a map or a list of classes.  It is so much more personal to help them find their way. 

  • Smile.  No one want to worship with a bunch of gloomy faces.

  • Introduce yourself directly to children.  Don't talk over their heads.  Making a good impression on the kids means a lot to parents. 

  • If you are a Bible class teacher, introduce yourself to parents. Let parents know how glad you were to have their child in your class that day.  Make sure you have enough materials for a guest in class.

  • Make conversation.  Don't settle for "Good to meet you." Show a genuine curiosity about your guests.  A few good conversation starters include: Where are you from? What do you do? What brings you to our church?  Not only will it show them that you care, it will also let you know how to follow up with them.

  • Follow-up. Most congregations have visitor cards that guests can fill out.  Get their contact information and make sure they know you didn't forget about them when they left the building.  A card is an especially positive non-intrusive way to follow up with guests. (Showing up at their house unannounced is a little too much)

  • Look for them next time.  Introduce yourself again.  Don't worry if you've forgotten their name because they've probably forgotten yours too! 

  • Hospitality is huge.  When we first visited the congregation we attend now, the first people to greet us made a huge impression on us.  That very first Sunday, they took us out to lunch so they could learn more about us.  It meant a lot to us. If you can't afford to take visitors out to lunch every week, consider making a big enough meal to feed two families so you can invite them over.  We like to invite repeat visitors to our home later in the week.  While it isn't quite as quick, it does give me chance to clean the house!

  • If you are unsure if someone is a guest or not, greet them anyway!  In larger churches, it can be hard to keep up with all the members.  But I would rather introduce myself to a member than let a guest get away without a greeting. 

  • Know who the leaders are.  Visitors may need to know who the benevolence person is, or they may want to study with an elder.  Know who these people are in your congregation so you can get your guests in touch with the right people for their needs.
I hope this list has been helpful for you.  Being a "guest friendly" congregation is so important, and it is up to each member to make sure it happens.  We can't rely on the preacher, the elders, or the greeting team.  We each have to be warm and friendly ourselves if we want visitors to come back.

Helene & Melissa
photo credit: Hand drauf via photopin (license)

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