But after one coaching session with the pastor, became clear a new greeter program won’t solve this church’s problems.
This call helped that pastor to see that that there are additional variables to growing your church’s hospitality ministry than simply improving a system or getting more volunteers
Variable #1: Members who own the Church Hospitality Vision
You can put all the right systems in place, have greeters, a welcome center, and fresh coffee.
But if there is still no relational warmth beyond the volunteers, the message will mismatch.
Church leaders must help shape the congregation’s DNA so that all members will take on the joy of welcoming church visitors.
Members can still initiate conversation with people they haven’t met, help the lost find classes, and generally express some kind of greeting.
Even in larger churches, noticing the stranger who appears to be lost in the building, or the one who seems uncomfortable in a new space, a member can step in to say hello and offer to help guide the person where they need to go.
If your visitors say “Pastor, your people are stiff-arming me,” the congregation hasn’t caught the vision of hospitality.
If the teenagers snicker at someone who pulls on a locked front door, rather than showing them the working entrance, the congregation hasn’t caught the vision of a great welcome
Variable #2: The Congregation’s Culture
Each congregation has its own culture — music styles, insider lingo, stories from memories past.
I just finished doing some training for the Salvation Army and they know they have their own sub-culture with military terms for everything and uniforms.
Your stuff may need explanation.
When one looks at a church culture — is your church healthy?
Visitors can quickly detect if members are sarcastic, bitter, backbiting, complainers, and just plain cold towards outsiders.
If the congregation isn’t moving towards health, or healthy already in many ways, it’ll be hard to receive visitors.
If visitors walk away saying “That’s the unfriendliest church in town” or “he’s fighting with her” or “they don’t seem to like each other” you might have some church health issues.
If your church visitors leave saying “that was weird” or “they were a little weird” you might need to improve how you explain your culture to visitors.
Variable #3: The Systems and Processes
This all covers
- Systems to find and recruit and train volunteers
- Building cleanliness and preparation
- Quality control on sound, programs, and preaching
- Post service reception
- Church Follow up processes, from letters to visits to emails.
This is the mechanical side of guest services, of your church hospitality programming.
It is designing the systems and scheduling that works for you, the movement of knowledgeable volunteers, and shaping the first impressions of your visitor.
If a visitor leaves your church and says “No one said hello,” you might need to grow this avenue of ministry.
- How to Recruit and Train Greeters
- How to Welcome Church Visitors: Click here for Ebook on How to Welcome Church Visitors
Variable #4: The Visitor’s experience
Visitors bring with them expectations, whether they know it or not. Some of them are beyond your reach.
- One visitor never came back because the preacher didn’t use the King James Bible.
- Another didn’t come back because the preacher was a woman.
You can’t change theological biases, no matter how friendly your welcome.
Another visitor looks for a particular program you don’t have. You can’t change that any time soon either.
But one thing that draws visitors back is friendliness.
- Barna’s research suggest that 9/10 visitors look for a friendly congregation.
- Arn’s research suggests that visitors determine friendliness in the first 10 minutes after the service is over.
Put the two together and you can see how important friendliness is to the visitor experience.
How easy do you make it for people to relationally connect with your church, without lowering your theological standards or commitments of membership (that’s a different story for when people want to be members)?