We have all been in the position of being a visitor somewhere, whether it be at a school or work function, a social event or as a visitor at a church. When visiting a church for the first time, many times we form our impression of the church and even the pastor and leaders by how warmly we are welcomed. Many of us have heard stories of or even been “welcomed” by a less-than-friendly usher or greeter.
While we make attempts to be courteous and open to visitors, no matter where we worship, we must realize the extra effort it takes to reach out and help our special guests feel at home. Here are some tips that can help make newcomers feel more welcome and comfortable:
• As members and/or regular church attendees, we should endeavor to make visitors feel welcome. Just remember how you felt as a visitor in a new place. A friendly, welcoming face helps to ease any initial doubts about the decision the visitor has made to visit the church.
• Treat visitors as guests in God’s house, not as strangers. Use the same hospitality in church that you would for an honored guest in your own home. Their comfort and needs are of utmost importance.
• Act as a tour guide and provide a map of the church if there is one. Show them where all the resources are, from the bathroom, to the youth areas if they have children, to the fellowship hall. If there is a welcome center, encourage them to visit it.
• Remember the importance of nonverbal communication. With a smile on your face, make friendly eye contact. A gentle touch on the shoulder or a handshake wouldn’t hurt, either.
• Initiate conversation and greet guests at their level. If your guest is a child or in a wheelchair, try not to talk down to them. If you are physically able to, kneel down to ensure you are on the same eye level.
• Learn about your guests. Remember their names, ask them a few simple questions, and listen to their responses. Take a genuine interest in them. However, try not to get too personal with your initial questions, as this could scare a newcomer away!
• Help visitors find seating to accommodate their family. Better yet, invite them to sit with you if there is enough space. Whenever possible, do not let visitors sit alone.
• Invite guests to join you for an activity, whether it be to introduce them to other members at the church through a small group or to invite them to corporate Bible study.
• Ask visitors to fill out a visitor registration card with an option to opt-in for email alerts. Don’t automatically sign up guests for emails and newsletters they may not want. Do direct them to the church’s website for more information, though.
• Thank visitors for coming and let them know you hope to see them again. And if you have the opportunity to see them again, make sure you extend the same courtesies extended prior.
Stay tuned next month for a post about church growth and member retention!