Should we single out First Time Visitors?

One of the features here is “Ask EvangelismCoach.org“, a place where you can submit a question that’s on your mind about evangelism.   I collect them for ideas for future articles, and is a great conversation starter.

A recent one that came in was:

I’m so excited to have found your website – you were recommended by the Evangelism person on staff at PCUSA in Louisville, KY.

There’s a specific question on my mind, one that is causing quite a fuss at the church I’m serving as an interim pastor.  Here’s the question:  should first time visitors be asked to stand up during the worship service, identify themselves, and receive a flower that then identifies them as visitors to the more tenured members of the congregation?

Before I share my answer, I’d like to hear from some of the regular readers who get this via RSS feed, or some of the recent visitors who are here for the first time.

  • What does your church do to recognize first time visitors?
  • Do you recognize first time visitors?

Describe your church’s practice in the comments below, or use the email form on the contact us page if you don’t want to leave it publicly.

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Comments

  1. Scott says

    To making first time visitors stand: no…no…No…NO! Unless you want them to never return.

    We provide welcome packets with contact cards/coupons for a free sermon CD and other free gifts (currently a folding umbrella) – we also welcome and appreciate our “guests”, we don’t call them visitors, from the platform – but not in a way that singles them out or puts them in the spotlight.

  2. says

    Thanks for chiming in Scott.

    How do the guests get the welcome packets?

    Do ushers distribute to people with raised hands when the leader asks for visitors ro raise a hand, or are they on a table and people encouraged to pick them up at the visitors table?

    Chris

  3. Peter says

    Wow. We’ve been there – either sit while the members stood or stand while the members sat – good way to be singled out and feel extremely conspicuous. I’m glad that we don’t do that and didn’t at our last church. Of course, we tend to be smaller so that’s not a huge problem. We generally know that someone is visiting or not. Visitors are given a card, asked to fill it out (by the pastor, not singling anyone out), and told that this is the only item we’d like them to drop in the offering plate (or something to that effect).

    Our members will generally know that someone is visiting because they know who normally sits where (isn’t that the case just about everywhere) and also recognize new faces pretty well. We also respect people if they don’t want to take or turn in a card.

    I’ll admit that we don’t do welcome packets, but we do have someone follow up with a visit or call if they’re interested (I think we ask them). We definitely don’t have the same experience that you went through recently. :) I can’t think of a time that visitors have been talked through without acknowledging them at all. That’s just sad.

    I think that we should welcome visitors, but not single them out in any really odd way. It’s bad enough that they don’t know the customs of the local congregation for worship (when to stand/sit/clap, raise or don’t raise hands, etc). Adding in something to make them feel uncomfortable just isn’t right. They’re uncomfortable already in most cases.

  4. Richard Huntley says

    i would rather be recognized by standing than be ignored as we were while looking for a local church after 15 years in the mission field (Eastern Europe and Turkey). At some churches that we visited, no one even said HELLO to us. We left their church without talking to anyone.

    So from my point of view… First, make sure each visitor is greeted and welcomed. You may even offer them a place to sit (but NEVER in the front pews) and make sure if they can ask any questions at any time.

    Second, make sure you get a point of contact. Ask them if they would like to know more about your church and if a phone call from you would be appreciated. There has to be some sort of follow up.

    Thirdly, pray with them if possible. Make them feel that they were blessed for attending your church. İf they do not feel the friendliness or feel the family amosphere of your church, they will not come back.

    And, lastly… Always invite them to return. Also have a social time (coffee, tea, and snacks) after the service for EVERYONE to meet and greet each other. Times like today, people need family…

    May the good Lord continue to bless you and your ministry. Richard

  5. says

    @Peter:

    I think you’ve made a great point. Singling Visitors out can be uncomfortable in larger groups.

    Where else are people made to stand up and speak to a public gathering when they visit for the first time?

    @Richard:
    You make some great points. I’m glad I’m not the only person who has experienced No One Said Hello during their First Time Church Visit.

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