Your Turn: What to say to returning church members

Many of our churches will experience an increase in attendance this Christmas.

Last week, I consulted with an outreach team of a church that moves from three services to five services to accomodate all the people, family and friends for the Christmas Eve service.

There are many who will come Christmas Eve that haven’t been to church in months, or perhaps even more than year.

Christmas outreaches are a great time to start the reconnection with

  • inactive church members,
  • church members who have dropped out of church for a while,
  • or members who have simply drifted away.

That brings me to church hospitality question submitted via Ask The EvangelismCoach.

Question about absent members who return?

Help Don out:

Can you give us tips on what not to say to members who have been absent for a while?

Your turn

Help Don out.  Share your thoughts in the comment field below.

Your Turn: What to say to latecomers to church

Recently, I was asked the following question via Ask The EvangelismCoach.

I’ve posted this to the community Facebook Page, but wanted to give you all a chance to help pitch in.  I hope to do this on a more regular basis.

Ask EvangelismCoach Question from Ed:

“How do we greet late comers?

Do we need to mention that worship service has started?”

My thoughts

The basic principle that guides all your hospitality ministry is respect for the person coming late.

I have been in some churches where ushers close the sanctuary doors when the service starts, and then reopen them at certain points for latecomers.

Typically, they politely mention that the service has started.  It’s an explanation for the shut doors and the pause before entering.  They mention that in a few minutes, they will let people in at an upcoming point in the service.  It is part of their custom and practice.

I have been in some churches where people come in and go out at all points of the service.  Ushers seat them at any time.  The causal nature of these churches don’t really require an explanation about how the service has already started.

Above all, the key point is respect for the latecomer and finding ways to communicate respect and honor.

We certainly don’t want to communicate: “Your are LATE!”

Your Turn

Add your comments below to help answer Ed’s question.

What would you say to Ed?

Quick Survey to Evaluate Your Church Guest Services

This was originally posted at Group’s Church Volunteer Central

On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “This needs definite work”… 5 being “We rock at this”) rate your churches greeting and guest services practices:

  • Our traffic volunteers or shuttle drivers have been coached to know that they are the first representatives of our church and as such should be warm and friendly to everyone.
  • The walk into the church is welcoming and cheerful. People know they are in the right place for a Sunday service.
  • Our traffic flow is well-designed and easy which makes visitors feel comfortable, not lost.
  • There are people whose only job on Sunday’s is to assist newcomers in finding their way around the church.
  • Before a service even begins, our first-time guests have been acknowledged or welcomed in some way.
  • We make welcoming visitors a priority at every service.
  • We send our visitors home with a tangible reminder of their time with us.
  • Our volunteers are trained to go above and beyond in the areas of friendliness and helpfulness.
  • Our church culture reminds every member that they have a part to play in welcoming new comers.
  • Our senior leadership is empowered to make a personal contact with visitors at every service.

A score of 10-19: Red Alert! You need to make guest services a priority by developing a hospitality team, creating a plan to implement new procedures, and develop a new culture of friendliness.

A score of 20-39: Code Orange! You have some aspects of Guest Services covered; but there are areas that need work. It’s tempting to say, We are doing “good enough.” But in reality you are only about half-way to leaving a terrific first impression on guests.

A score of 40-50: Gold Ribbon! You are doing a stellar job of making visitors feel welcome. There may be one or two tweaks you can make that will take your church over the top in creating a WOW experience for your first-time visitors.

Based on your results, you may need to work a little harder on making a good first impression!

Mark Waltz’s handbook on the subject can take your church from fair to fabulous, and ensure that first-time visitors feel welcome, valued, and eager to return.

Order Mark Waltz’s book: First Impressions: Creating Wow Experiences In Your Church (affiliate link from Amazon).

Do you want some DVD based training to help you find those barriers?  Click the banner below

I Can’t Get In

Over at, I’ve released video Number Churches that are closed and don't let people in3.

In today’s video, I address one of the biggest barriers that churches put up to visitors who do come back for several weeks in a row.

I once  attended a local fellowship for nearly 6 months and still had no friends.   It was a fellowship with about 100 people at the service we attended.

In fact, not one person made an effort to talk with us.  This church had all the right hospitality systems:

  • Visitor Table
  • Contact Cards
  • Ushers
  • Greeters

They were doing all the right things, but there was not a single person who said hello to us.  Even the pastor remained a stranger to us during this time.

That’s unacceptable.

Today I’m releasing video #3 at

It’s called “Can’t Get in!”

I give some lessons I’ve learned as a result of this, and two ways that I’ve seen churches try to address it.

The fourth video will be out in a few days.

You should be able to straight to the video by clicking the link.  If you can’t get it, simply provide your email address, click on the confirmation link and you’ll get the most current video.

These videos will be up only for a short time, so be sure to get them.  They run about 10 minutes each.

Free Church Hospitality Videos

Church Hospitality QuestionsEarlier this year, a church hospitality committee leader called me up to have chat about how to restart their hospitality ministries.

Perhaps you have the same challenge they had:

People come for the first time, but they don’t come back.
What can we do to fix that?

This church began looking for solutions

They were a large church that had several systems in place, but still visitors were not coming back.

Perhaps you’ve read hospitality books, but they seem

  • to be written for churches 10 times larger than yours.
  • to require more volunteers than the total number of attendees in your church

They talk about systems and processes that just seem out of reach for your church.

Where can you begin?


Church Hospitality DVD TrainingIf you are asking the same question, I’ve put together a free video series for you

It’s called 9 reasons your visitors don’t come back and what you can do change some of those.
There is a free download available at the end of the video to give you a practical starting point.

I want to send these videos to you over the next 10 days, but only if you are interested,
which is why I’m asking for your email address again before sending you the first one.

The second video will be released by email on Monday, and it’ll focus on three quick fixes to your greeter ministry

You can get the videos only by signing up for them at