If you were the first time visitor in a church, would you want to be introduced publicly to a group of people you didn’t know, hadn’t met, and may not see again?
Your own answer to that question may give you a clue as to why public introductions of first-time church visitors is a bad idea.
Don’t introduce first time visitors. Introduce your church instead.
1. Don’t make visitors introduce themselves
In my first church, I used to invite visitors to stand up and introduce themselves.
I no longer do this after learning a valuable lesson.
One time I invited a church visitor to stand up and introduce themselves.
The visitor didn’t volunteer to stand up. I waited until they did.
That visitor never returned to our church. Our church failed to influence that person for Christ due to my inconsiderate error.
I did not realize how uncomfortable my approach was until I was asked to stand up in front of a group of over 200 people and share my name and where I was from.
In that moment, I had a flash of insight – this was uncomfortable and not the right place for a “get to know you moment.”
In our North American culture, this practice is less and less comfortable and is becoming a custom that should never again see the light of day.
Read more: Should we single out First Time Visitors?
2. Welcome Your Guests from the Front
Instead of making your first-time church visitors introduce themselves, introduce them to your church and its mission.
Your liturgist, campus pastor, or preacher should give a public welcome to your first-time visitors. That welcome greeting does not have to be boring or dull.
In many churches I have visited over the last two years, this church greeting is short and to the point.
There is no script to follow. There is no “formula” you can follow.
Here is a basic outline that I hear frequently:
Welcome to First Church. If you are a first time guest with us today, or the first time in a long time, we want to give you a special welcome.
At First Church, you will find a family of faith where you can grow spiritually, and find a place to serve as a blessing to the community.
No matter if you are feeling broken, or have it together at this moment, welcome to your family.
No matter if you are a follower of Christ seeking a church home, or a person searching for answers to your questions, welcome home to your family.
If you want to know more about our church, please fill out the connection card, and then visit us at the Next Steps area.
Do this welcome greeting from the front every Sunday, unless your church is small enough for you to notice that you have no visitors.
If you have no first-time visitors, you have a problem to think through elsewhere.
Some regular attenders will protest about hearing this every Sunday.
You can overcome their objection by reminding them of your church’s mission to influence people for Christ. This welcome is a vital word for your church visitors to hear.
3. Give Your Guests a Clear Next Step that Sunday
When you introduce your church to your guests, always offer a clear next step to where they can go get more information or ask their questions.
One church we visited for a few weeks invited guests to visit the “Green Tent” outside.
The teaching pastor that Sunday promised to meet their guests there. He was faithful to be there and make small talk with those who approached the tent.
The church we attend now invites guests to the “Next Steps” table.
Because they have a large lobby, they have multiple bar height tables available for smaller conversations to happen.
Each table is staffed every Sunday morning with great church volunteers.
One church we visited invited guests to visit the “Connection Center” – a kiosk or table setup that was clearly marked. This table was in the lobby.
By repeating this information week after week, you give your guests time and space to wait until they feel ready to take that step.
You’ve been introducing your church to your guests. A clear next step will give them a chance to introduce themselves when ready.
In a small church, a reception after your morning service is usually the place where this kind of interaction can happen.
4. Make Small Talk.
When your guest comes to your welcome place, they are ready to introduce themselves. Make meaningful small talk with them.
Learn about your guests.
Answer questions they might have.
Offer to point them in the right direction or connect them to a person who has answers.
This time after the service often allows people to stay for another hour (and sometimes 2) after the service is over.
- Conversations happen.
- Connections are made.
- Relationships built.
- People pray for one another.
Enough of an initial relationship can be established that encourage further church visits.
Read more: Useful Small Talk at Church Welcome Centers
5. Invite Your Guests to a Connection Event
A Connection Event is the best place to continue to introduce your church to your returning guests.
Mention it in your introduction every Sunday, or as appropriate for your church schedule.
Share the event on social media and in your regular promotional announcements.
In the church we visited while planting one, their connection event was a monthly home-cooked Pastor’s Luncheon.
We were invited by the liturgist from the platform, by an email, by a phone call the week before, and an email reminder.
The church did a good job of getting us there. The food was good, and it was our chance to hear about the vision and ministry of the church.
In the church we attend now, their connection event is their four week membership class called “The Journey.”
We have completed it and learned about what it means to be a regular attender/member at this church.
In my last church, their connection event was called “Starting Point.”
This type of event is where your first-time guests can come and start making new friends. We still see the people from our Journey class, though we’ve now found a small group that is a better fit for us.
Learn More About Helping Your Guests Get Connected
Systems have a place, and in the training webinar on church visitor assimilation available for download after purchase, I’ll cover a few systems that will help you.
The simplest form of church visitor assimilation is helping people make friends.
If your visitor can make 5-10 new friends within the first 6 months, they will likely stay and get involved.
Let me ask you this?
What has been your experience in introducing visitors? Would you want to be introduced, or would you rather wait until you have visited enough to want to learn more about the church.
(Bar Table Image: doomu / 123RF Stock Photo