Church Hospitality Ministry Archive

Next to personal evangelism, Church Hospitality is arguably one of the most important ministries of the local church. So many churches fail in this ministry of kindness. I've collected nearly 100 of these articles in a download resource for sale. Visit How To Welcome Church Visitors for information about this ebook

8 Lessons from My Church Shopping Experience

8 Church Hospitality Lessons from Church ShoppingIn the past 12 months, our family experienced being a church shopper.

We share some of first time visitor experiences

After a few months, we have found a church home, a new church development that is not yet public.  We are training our welcome teams from the start and buildling welcome and hospitality into our DNA.  Here are some lessons I learned from all 8 visits (I still have yet to write up two)

1.  It is hard to be a first time church visitor.

Even though I’ve been a follower of Jesus over 30 years, going through this experience of being the first time church visitor for my own family is harder than I thought.

In the last 20 years, I’ve been in a church leadership team and have some kind of status.  But visiting churches as a non-staff member looking for a place for our family to give its life away has been harder than I thought.

Your church needs to recall that it’s not easy to be church shopping as a Christian family, nor will it be easy for the unchurched to find their way in.

2.  Your churched visitor has criteria they bring.

We come with a list of criteria we look for in a church.

As followers of Christ, having planted two multi-cultural churches as an associate pastor, served in youth ministry, and involved in cross cultural missions, we discovered that we had a list of criteria that we measured a church against.

Though we liked our experience at one church, it simply didn’t match a lot of our criteria.

Visitors will come and go as they seek churches that match some of their critera.  There is not much that a church can do about the whims of such visitors, myself included.

3.  A working church website is important.

Please do whatever it takes to get your broken church website current and working correctly.

I ruled out a few churches to visit simply because their website had dysfunctional websites with broken links, poor navigation, and hard to find information.

If you have social media like Twitter and Facebook, please make sure you answer questions submitted in those mediums.

Yvon Prehn released her take on 5 Church Website Essentials here.

Don’t let your church website prevent your visitors from coming.  (Read this article from Church Marketing Sucks).

4.  Can I make a friend?

We visited one church 6 times over the course of 3 months.

Their worship service was exciting.  Their teaching was biblical.  Their mission was Christ centered.

But, we found no easy way to make a friend, connect with a group, or get involved in a volunteer service project.

Our children visited the youth group for 6-8 weeks and eventually decided to drop out with our permission.

We couldn’t figure out how to make a friend.

There was no space to form a friendship on Sundays.

There was no clear way to us as a visitor where we could go an make a friend.

We tried one Saturday event, and at the end of it, still had no friends.

Put effort into designing a natural way for your newcomers to start making friends.  You might like this resource on assimilation.

5.  Creating a culture of hospitality takes work.

If those teens at the front door had captured the hospitality vision, at least one of them who saw our awkward entrance attempt at the locked doors could have mentioned to us that the entrance door is around the corner.

At small churches, members could have easily welcomed us as visitors, but left us feeling left out.

It takes a hospitality vision in the entire church to help visitors avoid interesting moments like that.

This audio resource might help you.  Casting and recasting a welcome vision is an ongoing work that takes work from pastors and church leaders of influence.  It’s not set it and forget it.

6.  A visitor packet can be a great place to include a simple gospel outline.

Your website and even your church visitor packet can be a great place to communicate the basics of the gospel.

Though every sermon should have a clear connection to a gospel presentation, you may want to include a simple gospel outline in your visitor packet.

If I was an unchurched visitor looking at this visitor packet, you’d be giving me an opportunity to understand the core of what Christianity is about, what Jesus did for me, and who Jesus calls me to be.

I’ve seen packets that include statements of faith (for church shopping believers).

These are too confusing for an unchurched, unsaved person.  Most are full of theological jargon that make no sense to those outside of your stream of Christianity.

7.  Make it easy to fill out a connection card.

I did a mystery visit recently to one of the local area churches.  It was good visit and they do many of the hospitality things right.

As part of their welcome greeting from the front, I was asked to fill out a connection card, turn it in for a free gift.

But I forgot a writing utensil.  I had no pen, no pencil, and I wasn’t going to sign by pricking my finger for blood.

There were no pencils/pens within my reach, nor in a pew rack or chair pocket.

There was no friendship pad available for me to steal a pencil.

I never filled out the visitor card.

Walk into your sanctuary or worship space this weekend and see if your visitor would be able to access a pen or pencil to fill out a visitor card.

8.  Invite your first time visitors back.

At many places, we left as anonymous as we came.

The was no process to register my attendance, no card to fill out, or no attempt to tell me what next week’s sermon was about.

I will not receive a follow up letter in the mail to invite me to return.

I will not receive a follow up invitation to a special gathering for new comers.

I will have no way of knowing what sermon topic is coming the following week to give me a reason to consider coming back.

I think these churches missed an opportunity – an opportunity to invite us to come back next week.

Consider this short webinar on visitor assimilation and learn some ways to start putting a system in place to follow up with church visitors.

Let me ask you this

If you have been recently shopping for a church, is there a lesson you can share that would add to this list?  Please do in the comments.

Mothers Day Church Greetings that Honor All Mothers

Mother’s Day can be really awkward at church.

Being sensitive not only to to your members, but also your first time visitors, you’ll want to remove as many of those awkward possibilities on Mothers Day.

Out of a noble desire, church leaders desire to honor mothers and celebrate motherhood with announcements, particular prayers focused on mothers day, and even a sermon related to the qualities of an awesome mom.

How will you give a church welcome speech that would honor mothers?

Ideas to Honor Mothers at Church on Mothers Day

If you are looking for ideas to honor mothers at church, or ways to honor mothers at church, consider some of the awkward emotions that will be present on Mother’s Day.

Mother’s Day brings mixed emotions

My wife and children

For many, Mother’s day is an awesome celebration of life and joy’s of being a parent.

My wife is an awesome mom to our kids.

Mother’s Day is a joy.  (We get to celebrate it twice each year because of dual nationality).

But Mother’s Day is also a mixed bag for myself and my friends.

My mother passed away from cancer in 2013.  Mother’s day is a mark of my own grief.

My friend’s husband died suddenly in February 2015 while in his 40s.  His mother is grieving the death of their only son.

My friends struggled with infertility for years.  Every mother’s day is a reminder of their struggle.

My friends had unexpected miscarriages and grieve their unborn.  Mother’s day is a day of grief.

My friends have had their children fall into addictions, rebellion, and walking away from the Lord.  Mother’s day always seems to remind them of how they “failed” in raising a godly child.

Some mothers chose abortion and live with the reminder every Mother’s Day of what “could have been.”

As you can see, Mother’s Day can be a mix of emotions.

How to publicly Honor Mothers Day in your Worship Service

You can honor Mother’s Day by preparing your church for that morning.  (Make sure even the bathrooms would make your mother proud).

Pastors – Refresh a vision for welcoming visitors so that your congregation does not fail to welcome the visiting mothers that day.

There are plenty of Scriptures for Mother’s Day that you can use in your church welcome speech.

Church Welcome Speech Ideas for Mothers Day

But Amy Young writes some phrases (in Shout Out To Mom) that you might want to consider sharing in that welcome speech.

I put them all here:

  • To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you.
  • To those who lost a child this year—we mourn with you.
  • To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains—we appreciate you.
  • To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions or running away—we mourn with you.
  • To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears and disappointment—we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make things harder.
  • To those who are foster moms, mentor moms and spiritual moms—we need you.
  • To those who have warm and close relationships with your children—we celebrate with you.
  • To those who have disappointment, heartache and distance with your children—we sit with you.
  • To those who lost their mothers this year—we grieve with you.
  • To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother—we acknowledge your experience.
  • To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests and the overall testing of motherhood—we are better for having you in our midst.
  • To those who have aborted children—we remember them and you on this day.
  • To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children—we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be.
  • To those who stepparent—we walk with you on these complex paths.
  • To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you.
  • To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year—we grieve and rejoice with you.
  • To those who placed children for adoption—we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart.
  • And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising—we anticipate with you.

How NOT to publicly Honor Mothers Day in your Worship Service

If you want to create awkwardness on a Sunday morning, the best thing you can do is to ask mother’s to stand up, or stand up and come forward for prayer.  That is just as bad as making first time church visitors to stand up

You will create instant questions in the minds of women in the congregation:

  • I had a miscarriage and have no living children – do I stand?
  • My only child has died – do I stand?
  • I have a strained relationship with my son who won’t speak to me – do I stand?
  • I’m not married, but am pregnant – do I stand?
  • We are expecting our first born – do I stand?

Of course you want to pray for mothers, and honor mothers on mothers  day.

I would suggest you honor them and pray for mothers as a group, without making them stand up, raise their hand, receive a flower, or any other public identification that will create those questions of awkwardness.

Let me ask you this?

If you could add a line to the list to honor mothers on mother’s day, add your comment below.

Confessions of a Church Shopper #7: An Easter 2015 Church Visit

Easter Church Visit 2015

It was Easter Sunday.

We attended a traditional church in a mainline tradition.

It was the traditional service, one of 3 main services on a Sunday morning.  Full robes were worn by the hand bell team and the full choir.  The pastor wore a suit and tie.  We sang the awesome hymns of Easter accompanied by the choir and full organ.

We were an invited guest.

A first time visitor invited us to join them on their second visit to the same church.

A Good First Time Church Visit.

This church gave our family a good first time experience.

  • Greeters were friendly.
  • Smiling ushers gave us a bulletin, though we sat ourselves without much problem.
  • During passing of the peace  we were greeted with smiles and handshakes.
  • It was clear the musicians and singers loved to sing the awesome hymnody of Easter.

The church had helpful aids for the congregational signing.  They had large screen that showed all the hymn words.  The call and response liturgical readings were on display as well as the communion liturgy.

A leader shared the logistics for how to proceed to the front to receive communion, which made it easy for us to participate.  Since the juice was served in little cups at the communion stations, a basket was there for convenient disposal.

The people in the choir, the lead liturgist, and the pastor all seemed genuinely thrilled to be there.  As they sang, it’s clear that worship is personal for them, not just songs to sing that are supposed to be sung on Easter Sunday.

The sermon was a clear telling from the Bible and methodically walked through the passage.  The pastor’s preaching ability is clearly a strength of this church.

What could have helped the first time church visitor.

1.  Don’t launch the service with an apology.

The opening liturgist called us to worship with an apology for not being someone else.

As a visitor, I don’t know who that someone else is, and I didn’t find his name in the bulletin.   While every long term attendee might know that you were the unexpected morning leader, just lead, don’t start with an apology.  It creates an “insider” feeling that leaves your first time visitor confused.

You are in the role of liturgist for the morning.  Step into it and enjoy it.

2. Fix lack of signage from rear parking lot to the sanctuary entrance.

This church has 3 different sanctuaries.

Given that it was Easter Sunday with very high attendance, we had to park in the farthest lot.

To find the sanctuary, we followed other people walking where they knew.

There were not enough signs to let us know where the entrance was.

We have been to other churches that had clear signage at every turn.

From our spot in the parking lot, we had to make 3 or four turns to find the front door.  Signs at each one of those turns would potentially ease a first time visitor’s concern about finding their way.

Take your own sign audit and see if you need to add a sign or two.

3.  Explain Christianeese

During the service, my friend asked,

“What is the doxology?  What does it mean?”

On high attendance days, consider your first time visitors who may not know what some of your liturgical words are.  You may have an explanatory paragraph for terms that are not common now.

4.  Invite your first time visitors back.

We left as anonymous as we came.

The was no process to register my attendance, no card to fill out, or no attempt to tell me what next week’s sermon was about.

I will not receive a follow up letter in the mail to invite me to return.

I will not receive a follow up invitation to a special gathering for new comers.

I will have no way of knowing what sermon topic is coming the following week to give me a reason to consider coming back.

I think the church missed an opportunity – an opportunity to invite us to come back next week.

Consider this short webinar on visitor assimilation and learn some ways to start putting a system in place to follow up with church visitors.

Let me ask you this?

What did you do to give a welcome to your guests on Easter Sunday?


Church Greeter Tips: Show Respect for your Guests

Church Greeters could use this tip as soon as this Sunday at church.  Read on and share

Several months ago, a church greeter kissed my wife.

Other church greeters failed to make eye contact.

We startled a church greeter by asking her a simple question

“Where is the middle school Sunday school class meeting?”

She didn’t know the answer and we created an awkward moment.

As the hospitality ministry leader, it is important that you give constructive feedback to your church greeters.

This includes feedback on hugs, kisses, pats on the shoulder or arm, and handshakes — all of which have the potential to invade a guest’s personal space.

Church Greeter Kissed my Wife

Mark Waltz makes a valuable contribution to this discussion with a recent article shared from his book  How to Wow Your Church Guests: 101 Meaningful Ways to Make a First Impression (Group Publishing):

It’s really simpler than you think. Not everyone wants to have their hand shaken. Churched people want handshakes (unless there’s a flu epidemic, then no one wants a handshake); people new to your church may only want a courteous “hello.”  Read the body language of your guests to determine an appropriate greeting.

  • Both hands are buried deeply in his pockets. He doesn’t want to shake your hand.
  • A parent is holding tightly to their kids hands. Don’t offer a handshake.
  • Her eyes are focused on the carpet. She doesn’t want to make eye contact. Probably not going to shake her hand. You may not even get the opportunity to speak as she passes.
  • He’s answering as briefly as possible while glancing at his watch every three seconds. He’s not into your conversation. Don’t trap him; let him go on his way.
  • He stepped into the lobby and stopped for two seconds as he surveyed the space cautiously. He’s likely new.Approach him with a personal introduction and a handshake.
  • She’s reading the weekend program (or bulletin) word for word. She’s new. No one in your church reads it thoroughly. Opportunity to connect.
  • He’s standing alone in the hallway. Good chance he’s waiting for his lady who’s in the restroom. He hates this wait. He feels conspicuous. Eliminate the mystery: “Will someone try to talk to me?” Put him out of his misery. Introduce yourself.

Make instant assessments. If your guest is communicating, “Leave me alone.” Listen. Otherwise, extend a personal welcome.

Source: Mark Waltz

Not every church visitor wants a handshake.

Not every church visitor wants a hug.

Not every church visitor wants a shoulder touch from a stranger.

Your church greeters could put aside their personal preferences (as in “Oh, Give me a Hug! I’m a hugger.”) and make sure they respect the personal space of a guest.

Unintentional Barriers

Here is a similar tweet:

Nothing quite ruins my Sunday church experience like the 65 year old greeter who tries to mouth kiss me every time I go.

Church greeters can create really awkward moments:

  • Invasion of personal space
  • Grooming Habits
  • Grumpy Frowns
  • Lack of Eye Contact

New church greeters can be

  • Nervous
  • A little intimidated
  • Not sure how to respond
  • Not sure what to say or how to talk to a complete stranger.

It does not have to be this way.

Equip your Church Greeters

Greeter Training DVDHelp your church greeters with this set of DVDs (or download).

Use them in your hospitality meetings.

Use these to inspire your own training.

Greeter Training #1 helps church greeters:

  • The vision of Greeting Ministry
  • 5 Verbs Every Greeter Must Know
  • Conversational Small Talk for Nervous Greeters
  • Saying Goodbye with Style
  • 2 keys to an effective welcome
  • 2 Recruiting Tips
  • Q&A on post service receptions, new Christians, and more.

Greeter Training #2 helps your greeters:

  • How not to appear on a list of crazy things greeters do to embarrass visitors.
  • More conversational small talk for nervous greeters
  • Ways to recognize visitors in a large or small church     <—biggest question
  • How to be a good church greeter
  • The role of greeter in the church welcome
  • 5 Ways to Grow as a Greeter

Several people have found these training videos very helpful to:

  • Show as part of your own training meeting
  • Inspire additional creativity on your part for a training.
  • One took the 5 Verbs from the Training #1 and made a bookmark.
  • They are recorded narrated presentations from an online class.

Each one is approximately 1 hour long.

Order Your Custom Webinar

from the Store


Church Shopping Visit Number 6

We were prepared to be the first time church visitor in our new home town of Port St. Lucie Florida.

The church planting team we are a part of has taken a holiday break, so our family was free on a Sunday morning to be that first time visitor and experience once again the challenge of being a new mover Christian family looking for a church home.  It is another visit in our series on church shopping.

First Time Church Visitor Story

Since we have no church going friends in this city, we are dependent upon advertisements and the internet to find a church to pick from.

We share some of first time visitor experiences here, here,here, here, and here.

How we picked this church

We chose a local church based on some advertisements we saw in a local circular that was delivered to our house.

There was nothing really impressive about their full page ad.

It was full of stock photography of young families and young adults.

The ad contained their service times and location and made it easy for us to make our way there on Sunday morning.

Our First Time Visitor Experience

As we made our way into the massive sanctuary, we discovered that stock photos of young families does not reflect the reality of the service we visited.

We mostly saw retired baby boomer retirees and the preaching pastor regularly referenced retirement and grandchildren.

The young families may be at other weekend services, but the morning service we picked didn’t match the marketing.

We arrived 5 minutes late (having missed a turn during a wonderful conversation in the car).   The parking lot was full, but we found a parking space on our own.  I realized that I had expected a church this size to have parking teams to facilitate this.  Another mismatched expectation.

If the church has morning greeters, we didn’t encounter one.    Another mismatched expectation.

We got a bulletin from an usher who wished us a Merry Christmas and left us alone to find our own way to our seat anywhere we wanted.  Another mismatched expectation for a church this size.

The sermon struck me as mediocre.  The teaching pastor went on for about 45 minutes going word by word from a text.

But I couldn’t tell you what the takeaway point was.  Neither could my family.  We all felt that there was no cohesive point in the verse by verse exposition.  I realize that I am working at improving my own talks and thus have an extra critical grid as I listen to other sermons.

The invitation to the altar call was not related to the sermon in any way, so there was another disconnect for me.  The invitation should always reflect a response point to the sermon, and not a tangential add-on.

When the service was over:

  • We left as anonymously as we came,
  • We talked with no one,
  • We felt noticed by no one, and
  • We were inspired by nothing.

However, the quality of the music, instruments, and vocals was excellent.  We could tell each of the singers and musicians enjoyed what they do and the level of professionalism in their leadership was excellent and something all churches should strive for.

Their Visitor Connection Card

Their visitor connection card was a separate card inside their bulletin.

I saw it after the offering had passed, so I missed a chance to turn it in.

While filling it in, they asked for birth dates of my children, anniversary dates of my marriage.  I think that’s too much personal information to give on a first visit.

The bulletin said I should turn it in at the welcome center for a free gift.  The bulletin didn’t tell me where the welcome center was.

I looked for the welcome center in what I thought was the lobby, but couldn’t determine which of the 4 tables was the visitor center.

No one was at any of them and there was no sign.

I know we will not get any visitor follow up letters or any other contact, as the church has no record of our attendance.

Our final impressions

This is a good church for many people who attend and have become part of its family.

The church is clearly Jesus centered – from the songs to the sermon.

The church is actively involved in the community in various projects.

We could tell from the Sunday bulletin activity list that there is a lot of good activity and potential for discipleship growth and many places we could potentially get involved.

The visitor contact card clearly told us what our first class would be if we wanted to give involved.

I’d still recommend this church to my future friends as an option for visiting.

From a hospitality systems standpoint, there is much room for improvement.   They might benefit from a quick review of my ebook How to Welcome Church Visitors

But our overall experience was so bland that nothing compels us to make a repeat visit.

What you can learn from our first time church visit