*They are met by a happy, smiling person as they arrive
*They receive a firm handshake
*They have a good conversation with effective eye contact and positive body language
- *They are presented with details of the church and are given a visitors card
*If they have children that they receive information about young people’s activities
*They are introduced to someone in leadership (if possible).
A few years ago I visited a church not too far from where I live. I like to arrive before the meeting starts, so we entered the church to be met by a greeter who smiled and shook our hands. He gently waved his arm in the direction of the seats and that was it. We sat down and for the next fifteen minutes watched the people arrive. As the church filled up no one spoke to us at all, until the Pastor and his family arrived just a few minutes before the service started. At the same time some other friends arrived, came over and said hello to us. We were pleased to see people we knew but overall, our experience was not that welcoming.
I know people who have visited a church and had the complete opposite happen –because it seemed as if the whole church came over to greet them, so much so, that it felt claustrophobic. They felt pressured and overwhelmed by the attention.
A couple of years ago my family accompanied me to a preaching engagement. We were welcomed in much the same the way I described earlier and of course by the pastor. However, no one else even engaged us, even during the after service refreshments.
It’s obvious that we ought to use wisdom in the way that we act toward outsiders; making the most of every opportunity that comes to us.
I have another question. “Do you make the most of every opportunity?”
At our church, the Pastor and leaders will always make a point of speaking to new visitors as a matter of priority. I am aware that some churches have large numbers attending so it may be difficult for the Pastor to do this. In these circumstances, it is vital that the regular church attenders are mindful to welcome the newcomer with a handshake and a smile as they introduce themselves. Try to avoid saying “I haven’t seen you here before” because they may have been there and you didn’t know it.
When I greet people I smile and say “Hi, my name is Moray and it’s a pleasure to meet you. I don’t believe we have met before…do you live locally?” This simple question should let you know how willing the person is to speak. Some conversations finish quickly because people are a little shy whereas other times the opposite can happen.
If visitors have children with them I will make a point of speaking to them as well. I might ask if they were informed about the children’s facilities and crèche programmes.
I will also introduce them to key people in the church who I know will be welcoming. We have just once chance to make a good ‘first impression’!
Be sure to speak to them after the service finishes. I don’t ask “Did you enjoy the service?” because this question may make them feel under pressure. So instead, I may comment on an aspect of the service which often starts a conversation which can lead on the other things.
The way we do this has an impact on attendance. How welcoming are you?