This week, I had a hospitality coaching call.
The client was in charge of starting a hospitality and welcome ministry in a startup storefront church.
Under 20 people attend on a Sunday at the moment.
How can an extra small church give a good welcome?
It’s a challenge when the extra small church still has some awkwardness to the Sunday morning gathering.
A Small Church Visitor can feel awkward.
Smaller churches are often less unpolished.
First impressions are sometimes pretty awkward.
We visited a small church a few weeks ago.
Some friends of us joined us as first time visitors.
Several times, I cringed in awkwardness at the quality of worship:
- The sound person couldn’t get the equipment to work right,
- Typos of all sorts on the big screen,
- Delays in the drama
- Slides out of order.
- The sermon got tossed out because of the pressure of time.
The size of a small church amplifies the awkwardness of such mistakes.
This was not our first visit, but a second visit for us.
It was a first time visit for our friends.
We felt embarrassed for the church and for our friends.
It’s unlikely that our friends will return.
A Small Church Visitor can feel the lack of resources
No youth ministry.
No worship band.
No mid-week programming.
Small churches lack all sorts of volunteer resources that larger churches have.
Small churches may even choose to forgo all the things that normally are associated with a welcome ministry due to the lack of volunteers
- A post service gathering time to visit.
- Greeters and ushers.
Dig around on my website and you will find all sorts of welcome tools that many churches can implement when they have a volunteer base. For example:
- 10 Practices to Welcome Visitors
- Part II of 10 Practices to Welcome Church Visitors.
- 10 Useful Tips for New Church Greeters
- Host a reception after the service.
- A ministry guide for church ushers
Smaller churches lack a volunteer base to run those welcome ministries.
Where can a extra small church start?
But in a Sunday morning experience of an extra small church with limited resources, where should one start?
Start with making a friend.
How did I learn this?
An Extra Small Church Welcomed us
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.
Even Large Churches can start here.
I also learned this lesson from visiting a big church
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.
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.
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.
An Extra Small Church needs to start with making a friend
Your newcomer is in a place of stepping into a group of people for the very first time.
- Will they feel safe?
- Will they feel welcomed?
- Will they feel freedom to contribute their opinions?
- Will they be invited back for the next week?
- Will they feel like it was worth their time to make the investment next week?
Your newcomer needs to feel valued and respected.
We failed to do this once in an evangelistic small group. We killed the safety of the evangelistic small group the first night and never recovered.
The same principle applies in the extra small church.
What Your Church can do to get started
Here is the question to think about.
How easy is it for your visitor to make a new friend?
Church growth books on first impressions often stress the first 7 minutes of a visitor’s experience.
But this surprise result indicates that the fellowship time afterwards is perhaps more important than first impressions.
It makes sense.
In my ebook, How to Welcome Church Visitors, a whole chapter is devoted to these important ten minutes, including how to talk with visitors after the service.
These 10 minutes are not the time to conduct church business between members.
It’s time to talk with your church visitors and begin the possibility of new friendships.
The research shows that those 10 minutes after the service are the perfect time to take initiative and talk with your guests.
- Introduce yourself: “I’ve not met you yet, I’m Chris . . . . “
- Offer to pray with them right then if a need is shared.
- Offer to answer questions they might have about their experience.
These 10 minutes are about them — not about you or your church volunteer needs.
It’s not about the quality of your coffee or the freshness of the pastries (though that is important).
It’s about intentionally making connections after the service.
Instead of locating all the articles on church hospitality on my website, consider my ebook “How to Welcome Church Visitors.”
Follow the link with this banner and learn more about how that ebook can help you improve your hospitality systems.