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

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.

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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.

What you can learn from our church shopping experience

In the summer of 2014, our family moved to central Florida due to an expansion of our ministry’s vision and reach.

  • We are new movers into the community.
  • We have no friends yet.
  • We are a blank slate looking for a church.
  • We are the first time visitor.
  • We are the church shopper.

I wrote up our experience of the first church we visited.

A church greeter volunteer joyfully passed out the morning bulletin.  However, our question to her created a chain reaction of clumsy service.  Regular training of your volunteers would fix that awkward church hospitality experience

Last week, we visited a second church as a first time visitor.

Church Shopper Confession

We are church shopping

We are new movers to this area, so we are shopping for a church.

As a family, we have over 22 years invested in churches were we have lived, so we bring an informed experience to our church shopping experience.

Since we don’t know anybody in this town to get a person to invite us church, we have to rely on publicity that a church puts out.

That would include newspaper ads, and of course a really good church website.

Because we are a bi-lingual family, we wanted to visit a Spanish language church.

What you can learn: 

  • Your visitor may be church shopping and brings a mental list of what they want.
  • Your churched visitor will make comparisons to prior experiences.

How we found the church

We started our search with Google, trying to locate a church with Spanish services.   We tried search terms in English and in Spanish and didn’t find satisfactory results quickly.

Shopping at the local Hispanic market, we found a newspaper that had two full pages of advertisements for churches.

Some forgot to state where they were (address), or website, or service times.  If we couldn’t find out more information, that ad cost was entirely wasted.

If the newspaper ad had a website, we spent the morning looking at church websites.  I could talk about all the church website problems I found, but that would be a 6000 word article all by itself.

For the church we chose, the church website had service times easily located, as well as  the directions on how to get there (for me, these two facts are the most important feature of a church website).

Remember these church website facts:

  • 75% of first-time guests have already formed an impression of your church based on your website.
  • Your “greeters” are no longer your first contact with your guests.  According to one poll, 80% of people who visit your church visit your website first.

What you can learn:

  • A working church website is your best “front door.”
  • Do a SEO review of your church website to make sure it shows up in results.
  • Newspaper ads have a place for churched new movers like us.

Our Visit

We made it to the 11am service without much of a problem.  Other than finding the right door to get in, we didn’t have much awkwardness to getting to our seat.

It’s a small enough fellowship that our presence as first time church visitors was obvious.

We were quickly greeted by the founding pastor and his wife before we entered sanctuary.

After filling out a visitor card with our contact information, we found our seat.

Another usher checked with us to make sure we had filled out a visitor contact card.

Just before the passing of the peace, our names were read out from the visitor card and we were made to stand and we received a round of applause.  While this practice didn’t bother me personally, I know that being singled out as a visitor can make your visitor feel awkward and uncomfortable.  I don’t recommend it as a practice.

What you can learn:

  • Friendliness rules the day.
  • Friendliness is measured by the initiative taken by members.
  • Singling out your visits may cause embarrassment, rather than blessing.

Quality Matters

Every slide used had a bilingual setup.

A worship verse in Spanish, with an English equivalent underneath.

This lead to very word dense slides.  Sometimes the font size got so small that we had to squint to read it.

A few times, the English verse would be an entirely different verse from the hymn.  The Spanish would be stanza 3, the English was stanza 4.

When it came time for the Scripture reading, the passage displayed was entirely in English, but the reader read from a Spanish translation.

The slide confusion leads to cognitive dissonance – reading one thing in one language, and hearing it spoken aloud in another.

What you can learn:

  • Readability counts.

The relational factor overcomes everything.

What charmed us about this church was its friendliness.  That is the best tool to getting your church visitor to come back.

A few people took the initiative to talk with us.  We were personally greeted by the founding pastor.

We were greeted by a few other people as well.

The preaching pastor took some time as we walked out the door to visit with us and tell us a little more.

He even went the extra mile and called us on Monday to invite us to a follow up gathering of visitors.  That was a neat touch.

The relational warmth of genuine people easily overcame logistical issues like size of fonts and filing out a visitor card.

The personal phone call from this small church pastor has been the highlight of our church shopping experience so far.

I’ve learned from my church shopping experiences than friendliness overcomes any negative impacts on first impressions.  I visited a Spanish language church for a season of my life.  In spite of all their bad first impressions, I stayed and became part of that church.  Read how I became assimilated into their church.

What you can learn:

  • Friendliness can overcome any negative impacts on awkward first impressions.

Would we go back?

This is a one of the proof-tests of your hospitality experience.

Would we make a return visit?

Yes, this one would be worthy of a return visit simply because of their friendliness.

Ultimately, we know already this church wouldn’t fit all our criteria as a church shopper, so it won’t be our permanent home.

But it is a church that we could recommend to others who are looking for a bi-lingual experience in a particular denominational tradition.

Coaching Call

Do you want to discuss your where your hospitality system is stuck?

I offer a coaching call where I spend time on the phone with you or your committee, up to 90 minutes, where I help you trouble shoot and develop some action plans.  I’ve visited lots of churches as that first time visitor and you can learn from my experiences.

I can help you review your systems through a step by step flow chart that I’ve developed.  Read more about that hospitality coaching here.

photo credit: *PaysImaginaire* via cc

Should unbelievers be invited to church?

A year ago, I posted this question to the EvangelismCoach.org Facebook page.

“Should we invite unsaved friends to church?” Give a Yes or No, and then give a reason.

The answers were pretty divided between Yes and No, with some strong opinions:

  • Yes, the church is on an evangelistic mission.
  • No, the church is for believers only to train believers to go into the world, get them saved, and then bring them in.

It’s not my point here to drift into a full theology of the nature of the church, but to focus on the vocabulary of the question: what do I mean when I use the word church in this question?

I mean the gathered assembly, whether it meets in a high school gym, music hall, or a beautiful church building with stain glass windows and movable chairs.

I worked through the book of Acts to see if I could draw principles about the early gatherings of Christians before the church was more organized.

Invite Unbeliever Friends to Church

Should unbelievers be invited to attend our church?

Since many of you are new subscribers to our weekly newsletter, you may not know these exist in the archives.  Dig around and check out the evidence yourself.

I’m in the Yes camp.

I invite my unsaved friends.

I’ve been inviting my unsaved friends to church for so long that it is part of my teaching.  I teach on

Many of our church hospitality practices are based on the assumption that unsaved persons will be in our church, no matter how that visitor got there.  I’ve never questioned it.

I know many people who came to Christ because a friend invited them to church.   Here is one story.   After a few weeks of hearing the preaching of the word, my friend surrendered his life to Christ.  It is possible that without that invitation, he may have remained lost.  It is possible that God could have brought him salvation by some other method.  My friend was invited to church and came to faith in Christ.

If the church is responsible for evangelism, then it seems that some of it’s meetings will be intentionally evangelistic.

It also seems to me that the church would teach and train church members for evangelism where they live.

The Corinthian Church

We see Paul’s concern for the unbeliever in the midst of the assembly.

First Corinthians 14:23 Paul wants the assembly of the church to be sensitive to the unbeliever in their midst:

Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers.  So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind?

But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all,  as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, “God is really among you!” – 1 Corinthians 14:22-25

Paul assumes that there exists a possibility of unbelievers in the midst of the assembly.

There is no indication of how that unbeliever got there, nor is that the point of text.

But what is clear is a concern for the visitor.  That reflects a strong ethic that should reflect in your church hospitality practices.

Start the discussion:

Answer this question in the comments below.

For what reasons should we invite the unsaved to our church?