Do you know the 4 words a pastor should never say during the worship service?


“Stand and greet somebody.”

These four words are the worst part about being a church visitor. They make me shrink down into my seat even though I’m a ministry professional who visits many churches every year.

Frankly, I’m surprised that church growth researchers and highly successful pastors are surprised to learn just how much visitors hate those four words! I guess they’ve forgotten to look at this painful encounter from a church guest’s point of view

Think about it for moment. What’s the last thing you want to hear from a sales clerk when you enter a retail store?

“Can I help you with something?”

Answering that question immediately commits me to a temporary relationship I’d rather not engage: having a sales clerk follow me like a hawk over a field mouse while I browse the store.

I’m a guy – I don’t shop, I buy! I head straight for the aisle that has what I want, I grab whatever and make a beeline for the cashier. If I’m in the mood to browse, look for gift ideas or kill time while the p-wife gets her mani pedi I don’t want to be bothered. I want to come and go through the merch at my own pace.

And I don’t want to be bothered to answer a question.

It’s just creepy being followed around by a clerk when you know what you want or when you don’t!

So, doesn’t it just make sense that the ritual stand-and-greet is dreadful to church visitors?

What purpose does stand-and-greet serve?

This unexamined ritual serves no real purpose.

  • It doesn’t make the church feel welcoming to visitors
  • It doesn’t gather contact information for guest follow-up
  • It doesn’t answer questions the church visitor may have

All it really does is allow the church to think it’s a friendly congregation with little real effort on their part. But it is so ingrained that everyone misses the “stand and greet” time’s counterproductive value.

  • Visitors know it’s a sham
  • Church folk often suck at this (I recently visited a church when a woman shaking my hand never looked at me, she was too busy scanning the horizon looking for someone else)
  • It interrupts the flow of the worship service

Better Alternatives

I get the fact that pastors want to acknowledge guests, make them feel welcome, and train the congregation to extend an easy going hospitality. But there are better alternatives. I’ve written about many of them elsewhere.

  • The pastor, pastoral staff and worship team should circulate in the crowd prior to the service to greet unfamiliar faces
  • The members should be taught how to greet guests after the service, when it is actually meaningful (Is there anyone reading this that hasn’t been ignored after a service is over?)
  • Larger congregations should have assigned patrols that keep an eye on the same section of seats every week; their job is to greet church guests and introduce them to those sitting around them. Much more effective.


So, pastor, feel free to say, “We’re glad you’re visiting with us today.” Invite them to fill out your communication card if you must. Station yourself and other staff by the exit doors to greet folks as they leave.

But don’t ever again say those four words that church guests dread.



What have you found that works well in lowering the pressure on church visitors but welcoming them warmly? Click here to leave your comments below.