With a rapidly expanding world population and an ever-growing need for Christ, you’re probably wrestling with how to make your first-time guests feel welcome every week. I have learned several simple strategies that can revolutionize the way your church engages new comers. One thing is for sure – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression. Consider implementing the below strategies to implement a new welcome ministry or enhance your current welcome ministry.
Change your mindset about new comers
At our church, we are careful to avoid the term visitor. Instead, we typically refer to our new-comers as guests. While this may seem like a subtle distinction, it has transformed the way we view the new people that are attending our church for the first time.
The first time you visit, you’re a guest. From then on out, you’re family. Make yourself at home.
Avoid obstacles that prevent easy access
When was the last time that you went somewhere unfamiliar for the first time? Do you remember the anxious feeling that you had as you attempted to gain your bearings in the new environment? Unless your guests attend with a current member, they may feel awkward and out-of-place.
Make your guest parking easily accessible and clearly visible with appropriate signage. Equip your welcome team with campus maps and thorough knowledge of room locations, teacher names, and service times. Develop vision to see your church through the eyes of a first-time guest.
Proactively engage with guests
Too often, churches react to first-time guests by frantically scrambling to make them feel welcome. Churches should strive to proactively meet guests’ needs before they even arrive. Build and equip your teams to expect more guests than you would typically encounter. In other words, plan for the amount of guests you hope to reach, not that you are currently expecting. This strategy will ensure that you have enough volunteers to actively meet the needs of the every guest that could come on any given week.
Add multiple layers of greetings
Welcome team, greeting team, parking team, and ushers are just a few different layers that you may want to consider. For example, in our church you are greeted first by the parking team if you desire assistance from your vehicle. Then the greeting team is just inside the foyer and will offer you a bulletin with a smile. Most recently, we have implemented a specialized welcome team. This team covertly disperses throughout the perimeter of the foyer and awaits the opportunity to personally greet the guest and offer to escort them around campus. Finally, ushers greet the guests once they enter the sanctuary and offer assistance with finding a seat when the sanctuary is near capacity.
Recruit the right volunteers
Welcome team ministries require less skills and commitment than most available in the church. These ministries require little to no preparation, basic people skills, and essentially no follow-up. However, this doesn’t mean that welcome team ministries are overly simple or the right fit for everyone. Ensure that you recruit friendly, out-going, helpful, and genuine team members. The last thing you want is a grumpy welcome team member!
Regularly report your progress
Finally, record the number of guests you encounter weekly and share them results regularly. “What gets rewarded gets repeated.” Celebrate what God is doing through your welcome ministries and let them know how valuable they are. Schedule meetings 2-4 times per year. This will give you an opportunity to hear from your team and implement improvements to your processes.
Andrew Hale currently serves as Associate Pastor of Education and Discipleship at Turning Point at Calvary in St. Augustine, FL. He is also enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in their Doctor of Ministry degree program. You can connect with Andrew on both Twitter and Facebook.