Miss part 1 with number 1-5? You can read 10 Practices to Welcome Church Visitors Part 1 by following that link.
Here are Common Practices 6-10.
6. “Secret Greeters”
Some churches will go beyond only training greeters for points of entry at the church, such as the front door.
A good idea is to encourage others to be “secret greeters.”
These folks are part of the greeting team but are not in the obvious places like the front door or as an usher.
I had a fellow in my congregation who never served on a greeting team. However, he was always in the sanctuary, taking the initiative to greet people personally and visit with them for a little bit. He functioned as a “secret greeter.” This someone beyond the “professional greeter” at the door or the welcome center.
If for some reason a visitor gets to the sanctuary with a greeting from someone, this person is there to continue that greeting.
Consider this resource: 2 DVD Combo Set of Greeter Training DVDs
7. Pulpit recognition
Most churches that I have experienced will have the worship leader give some kind of welcome to the greeter.
Here, the advice from McIntosh is best (source: Beyond the First Visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church, Gary McIntosh, Review)
Whatever you do, take great pains not to embarrass the newcomer. Among other things this means you should not identify new people by placing a ribbon, flower, or nametag on them.
Do not ask visitors to stand and speak before the entire congregation. A survey of one thousand adults 18 years of age or older reported that “making a speech” was the number one event causing adults to be nervous. It ranked first, ahead of, in order, getting married, interviewing for a job, going to the dentist, a first date, and getting a divorce. (p 110).
My wife and I recently visited a church where this wasn’t done at all. She commented that it simply feels nice and warm when the worship leader acknowledges the presence of visitors and encourages the church to say hello.
8. Friendship Pads, Fellowship Books.
These are books that gather attendance information and provide a place for visitors to identify themselves by checking a box on the form.
The idea is that other people in the row would see check in the visitor box and take the initiative to greet. Church multi-purpose this form for attendance tracking.
However, I have been in churches where I check the box, and still no one greets our family. This practice seems to be falling out of favor because the pads become a doodle bin, the pencils are hard to keep sharp and it’s becoming an administrative nightmare.
There are other ways of getting visitor contact information, particularly the response card system mentioned in Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church (which I think is the best Assimilation book available right now). They use a Connection card that is distributed with the bulletin and every one (members, attenders, and visitors) fill it out as part of the service. This information is used in their assimilation process, described in detail in their book.
9. Quality Snacks and Beverages.
The basic idea is a informal reception area where people can gather after the service. For some, this is the lobby area (some call that a narthex). For others, it could be in the fellowship hall or auditorium.
As our evangelism training ministry takes us to churches throughout the Americas, many American congregations provide some kind of coffee hour after the service, to allow for a social setting where people can talk one on one. (Observation: In my travels in 10 different Spanish speaking countries and countless churches, only one church practiced this idea).
Make the coffee fresh and of appropriate strength.
It should not be reheated from last night’s fellowship event nor should it be so weak as to taste like colored water.
While it doesn’t take a lot of skill to make coffee, making it right is the challenge.
Coffee drinkers know a good cup of coffee, and a bad cup will leave a bad taste.
Don’t forget to make enough – sometimes the pot gets drained before visitors have had a chance to get to the urn.
Offer alternatives such as teas, juice, ice cold water.
If you choose to use bottled water, offer a recycle container for empty bottles.
Whatever snack items are offered, make sure they are fresh.
Stale sweets, or frozen items (poke a little fun) that had been thawed simply taste cheap and do not make a great first impression. Consider common food allergies and either avoid those (like nuts) or provide an appropriate sign.
In our health conscious time, provide healthy options for those that don’t want sugary cookies or sticky sweets.
Church members should be on the lookout for visitors again in this time.
Some visitors are obvious – standing around, reading the news items on the bulletin board, and generally being overlooked. Members ought to take the initiative and start a conversation.
This can be a time to help make connections and perhaps introduce people to the pastor. Pastors should make themselves available during this time to meet and greet people, not rush off to the study and prepare for the following service.
In the international church I served, we stressed the importance of introducing our visitors to the pastors. We had been told that many people from non-American cultures consider it an honor to be introduced to the pastor.
10. Sunday School Greeters and Hosts
Some visitors will partake of the Sunday School offerings. Many have a strong program here that attracts visitors who come for the first time.
I experienced a warm welcome in a 14,000 member mega church because of my experience in Sunday School.
I arrived early enough to pick a class. Once I found it (a kind person in the hall pointed out where I needed to go) I was welcomed by a person and invited to a beverage and ushered to a place to sit. The small talk was not intrusive but just enough to help me feel at ease in a strange place with total strangers (I was by myself). When the Class was over, this person showed me to the sanctuary and took me to a usable seat. After asking if there was anything else I might need, they left.
I learned later that this church was very intentional in their Sunday School program to welcome class visitors. Each class had a person in charge of the beverage, the teaching, and the greeting. I felt welcome, overcome the sense of being lost on their campus.
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 can help you review your systems through a step by step flow chart that I’ve developed. Read more about that hospitality coaching here.
Let me ask you this?
What did I miss? I’m sure your church might do things a little different.
What practices do you do in your church that you’d like to share?
Feel free to share with us in the comments.