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

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

Send Your First Time Church Visitor a Followup Letter

Church Visitor Follow Up lettersOur family was the first time church visitor as a result of moving our home office to the state of Florida.

We visited a few churches around our new little area of Port St. Lucie.

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

We share some of first time visitor experiences here, here, here, here, and here. Due to my teaching schedule this fall, I have not made another first time visit.

I have written before about different ways to follow up on church visitors, but want to share with you some current life experiences of followup letters. [Read more…]

Confessions of a Church Shopper – Can I make a friend?

We visited one church 6 times over the course of 3 months since our move to our new place in Florida.

It started off pretty good.  They made a really good first impression.

But we dropped out.

We stopped going.

ConfessionsOfAChurchShopperVisit5

They have an awesome Sunday experience.

Their worship service was both exciting and sacred.

The music was of high quality.  The musicians were skilled.  Singing with the worship band was fun and the atmosphere was worshipful.

They led us into music that was both celebratory and deeply sacred.  They had a mix of hymns and choruses.

Their teaching was biblical.

The teaching team is firm on presenting biblical teaching.  The 45 minute expository sermons through the book of the Bible were full of excellent and practical teaching.

The main teacher / pastor is a skilled communicator and teaches very well.  As one who appreciates expository sermons, I enjoyed every single sermon that I heard.  It has been a fresh relief after years of more topical oriented sermons in my last church that I helped to plant.

Their mission was Christ centered.

The leadership was pretty clear in many ways that this church was Christ centered.  They had a generous mission program.  On one of our visits, they shared some of the ways the church blesses the community through service, though we missed that opportunity because of our schedule.

They have awesome Church Hospitality Systems

Their church greeters were well trained, and easy to identify.

Their ushers were efficient at getting us to the seat.

The check-in process at the children’s ministry was a breeze.

The pastor was clear about how to fill out a connection card and what we should do with it.

The volunteers we interacted with were friendly and facilitated our ability to get to our seat.

The welcome center was clearly marked and we could engage people in small talk conversation if we choose.

The papers in the visitor welcome packet thanked us for coming.

During the service, the pastor clearly welcomed first time visitors in a way that wasn’t intimidating.

This church does all the things that make for a wonderful hospitality vision.  I believe they have been good at keeping that visitor welcome vision in front of their volunteers.

We felt honored to be so welcomed.  They are not like this church that had the right systems but no still no welcome.

After the first impressions, what is next?

We are new movers to a new town, relocating from another country (where we lived for 7 years), and have no personal friends.

After a few weeks, we were asking ourselves about how do we go about meeting people, learning more about the church, and even where do we begin to make a friend.

Sunday morning was simply too busy moving people around between services for any friendships to form.

There was no clear directions for us about where to start.

  • Does this church have small groups, life groups, bible studies, or something?
  • Is there a “Getting to know our church” type class?
  • Is there a gathering with the pastor at some point?
  • Is there a meal where I might sit at table with another family?

As a church visitor, our family doesn’t know all the answers to these questions.  We don’t know where to go next.

So we quit going.

We wanted to invest in the life and mission of this church. We tried going several weeks to learn about it’s mission and work.  We visited six times.

We listened for any relevant announcements. We looked for things things in the bulletin.  We never received any literature from the church about next step opportunities.

We tried one Saturday event spending 3-4 hours with church people on a work day. Our children visited the youth group for 6-8 weeks.

And that the end of all that, we still didn’t have a friend.

We couldn’t get in.

What Your Church can do to overcome this

Here is the question to think about.

How easy is it for your repeat visitor to make a new friend?

Follow up questions to this are

  • What programming exists where newcomers can make a friend?
  • How clear are you in communicating that to your newcomers?

Clear next steps are not hard.

One church gave out coupons to their Wednesday night supper.

One church invited visitors to serve with them in the community on the 4th Saturday, plus bring a friend to help serve.

One church invited us to a guest luncheon at the pastor’s house along with other newcomers for the month.

One church we visited followed this step:

  1. Sent us a handwritten thank you note plus a free meal coupon at Chik-Fil-A
  2. Sent us a letter from the pastor inviting us to a homemade breakfast on the 1st Sunday of the month.
  3. Called us to personally invite us to that breakfast.
  4. At that breakfast, the pastor introduced a little about the vision and mission of the church, and clearly pointed us to a 101 type class.

That church has thought through their process and we are finding ourselves naturally making friends with other newcomers as we experience this process together.

Each church clearly communicated to their newcomers about the one simple next step the visitor could take to get to make a friend.

Mark Waltz phrases it this way:

“In short, how does your church move people from visiting to belonging? The answer to that question is a bigger deal than a guest’s first or second visit to your church. Helping people experience the reality of belonging-to God and others-in a way that causes them to live for God and others is kingdom of God-sized stuff. That’s a really big deal.” (Lasting Impressions: From Visiting to Belonging, by Mark Waltz).

Read more:  The best church visitor assimilation tool.

Now is a good time for church visitor assimilation training.

Since the Christmas season and New Year’s are coming soon, your church will have lots of first time visitors coming.   It is time to review your assimilation strategies and think of intentional ways to utilize the season to impact the life of your local visitor who is looking for a church family.

It is time to refresh your vision for church visitor welcoming and integration strategies.

Are you ready to receive these visitors?

Download this webinar class ($10), you will learn:

  • How Personal Invitations Impact Assimilation
  • How to Open the Front Door of Welcome
  • 5 Must Have Tools for Effective Assimilation
  • How to Close the Back Door and Keep them Coming
  • Some of the specific questions generated by the audience:
    • How do you get this vision into the congregation.
    • What do I do with a chronic hugger?
    • How often should you train volunteers?
    • How do you get your church leaders on board with this?
    • What are key elements to a action plan for a church that has none?
    • DO you have a book list you recommend?
    • Do you have anything that addresses specifically the subject of assimilation of new members into the church family?
    • We have an old lady that insists on hugging all the new people who come to church. Is this good/bad. How to address this? Some members thinks this repels new people. Help!
    • Is the gathering only for new visitors, or any congregants? Specific members turn to stay?
    • What’s the best way to identify a new guest (besides visual observation)?

I want to share insights I’ve gained over the last 15 years to help you plan to help some of your visitors move towards regular attendance.

Order Now:

Click on the big button below and you’ll be taken to the page in the EvangelismCoach.org store to add it to your cart.

OrderNow

Useful Small Talk at the Church Welcome Center

In our family’s current journey of looking for a church, we empathize anew with Christian families that are new movers and have to find a new church on their own.

I am re-discovering is the value of small talk when engaging your first time visitor.  (Read these 20 Crazy Church Greeter Comments).

Our church visit this past Sunday drew my attention to the value of small talk. [Read more…]

Oops! We used the wrong door – A church visit story

We found our way to the church parking lot, in a round about way.

We drove past the one driveway and found the second driveway was roped off.   We drove around the city block to once again approach the one and only OPEN driveway.

As our family makes a trek to the third church in our church shopping campaign, I’m beginning to empathize in a new way with new movers like ourselves searching for a church to become a part of.

Since we have no churched friends in our new town, no one will invite us to their church that they are proud of.

A church Visit story church shopping

This week, we chose a bi-lingual church for their 11am service, and like the last church shopping visit, we chose it out of the local newspaper.

There was no website in the paper ad, but with a Google search of the church name and city, their website came right up.

On the church website, we quickly found the answers to the two questions we had.

1.  Service Times

2.  Directions.

Both were clearly indicated on the home page.

However, much of the rest of the church website from navigation to more details was broken and not working.  It was hard to learn more about this church from its website ahead of time.   They even chose to use stock photos, rather than photos of their own church community.

We found the front door – oops!

Church Door was lockedAfter successfully parking the car, after our round-the-block trip, we approached the front church doors that faced the parking lot.  The covered front area provided a space for dropping off passengers and framed the beautiful entrance to the church.

Two different groups of teenagers stood in front of each set of doors, wonderfully enjoying each others fellowship, but making this new family (us) walk around them to pull on the front doors handles.

The church doors were locked.

I caught the eye of a few teenagers.  Even though I’m over 40 years old, their stare at our awkwardness created feelings of incompetence in me.

We tentatively pulled on the second set of doors, under the watching eye of the second group of talking teenagers.

Locked again.

Embarrassed again.  

My teenage son even commented – “Dad, this is embarrassing.” – even though he didn’t know any of these teens.

Quick Fix:  Is your entrance clearly marked with signage?  (Take this free church sign audit).

Bingo! We found the side door.

A quick glance around the teenagers helped us to see some people walking around the corner of the building.

We followed them and found a side entrance where an usher or church greeter held the door opened.

Finally – this church visitor found the entrance.

The usher greeted us, made eye contact, and his friendly demeanor began to relieve our sense of embarrassment at trying to open a locked door.  He pointed us down the hallway towards the sanctuary, where additional ushers greeted us and led us to

FRONT ROW SEATS!

To make room for us on the front row, the usher  asked a few people already on that front row to go sit somewhere else.

While I’m not usually bothered by sitting up front, this could be a hospitality error at drawing unnecessary attention to your visitors.  We felt the eye contact of the service leader, and then held the direct gaze of the worship leader welcoming first time visitors.  We somewhat felt forced to raise our hands when asked.  We couldn’t anonomously hide.

Our kids were invited to their own ministry

A friendly children’s ministry leader found us during the worship set and personally invited my children to a class.  That was an awesome step of hospitality.  By now, my kids are used to testing new environments (new schools, 3rd new church, new groups of everything), so they willingly went.

At the end, their commentary was a little disappointing.

My 6th grade daughter didn’t have a class or Bible teaching time.  It was 100% play time.

My 9th grade son’s class had a small teaching lesson, but my son’s take on the class was a shoulder shrug “ok, I guess.”  It didn’t feel like the right place for him as he was the oldest in the class.

My kids felt that their time apart was merely babysitting vs. any kind of Sunday school.  They too are making comparisons to prior church visits.

The worship service itself

The worship service itself was a quality experience.  We enjoyed the congregational singing, the liturgical dancers, and the celebratory mood of the congregation.

The sermon was entertaining and full of general Bible truth, but the preacher would have received a failing grade from my homiletics teacher.  The points were somewhat generic, and not actually connected to the Bible reading for the day.

The preacher was a good communicator, and clearly spoke Biblical truth, but I found myself drifting in and out of attention during his hour long winding road sermon of tangential thoughts that had little to do with the Bible lesson for the day.

The sermon had a gospel presentation built in, and there was an evangelistic call to follow Jesus.  A few people came forward, received prayer, and there was an extended worship and ministry time.

As we left

We left out the side doors of the sanctuary.

The worship leader was there to give us a small visitors packet and quickly gave us more information about the church.

After that, it was all over.  Not another word was said to us, though plenty of fellowship was going on around us.

My review of the church visitor packet

I’ve written some articles on ideas for church visitor packets (here,  here, here, and here).  Since we were the anonymous church visitor, the welcome packet is a great place for us to learn more about the church we just attended.

Of the three churches we have visited so far in our church shopping experience, this is the first church to give us a welcome packet.

The church welcome packet contained:

  • Brochure on the pastors.
  • Brochure of the core beliefs (doctrinal statement)
  • Bookmark
  • Business card
  • Brochure about the church ministries and its leaders.

The quality of the brochures was reasonable.

Would I return?

Because I train other church in hospitality issues, I am extra aware of what is missing and what is done right.  In spite of the criticisms I have, our family would still be willing to return to this church.

This church fits some of our criteria, and we were not really bothered by some of the hospitality practices of locked doors and front row seating.  Our kids are willing to give it another try a little later, thinking that their Sunday school experience might have been a lazy Sunday in August type experience.

We’ll have this church on our list of possible ones to reconsider as we continue our church shopping visits.

Learn from my church visits

How to Welcome Church VisitorsI’ve written lot about the church hospitality lessons I’ve learned.

(Here are 5 hospitality lessons I picked up last year).

I’ve written a download only church hospitality e-book that compiles several lessons I’ve learned from visiting churches over the last 7 years.

This e-book is a practical ‘how-to’ manual on creating a better first impression to welcome visitors to church.   If you are beginning to learn about church hospitality practices, this will help you get started.

Click here to read more detail about my e-book, “How to Welcome Church Visitors.