When was the last time you visited a place that billed itself as "the unfriendliest church in town?"
I don't think I've ever been to one. But they're out there in spirit if not in name. Tim Dolan reports that one of his lay ministry students found one.
As an assignment, I encouraged my students to put on their "visitor hat" and attend a local church service to find out for themselves. Normally, students do not take me up on these kinds of challenges. Barb did. Barb attended a worship service as a first time visitor the very next Sunday and reported back to me what she had experienced.
Barb's experience at this church confirmed what I feared. No one greeted her at the door when she entered the church building. A man standing in the narthex did not know what time the service began... No one greeted her as she entered the sanctuary and sat down. One woman came along with a bus load of children and gave Barb that "you're sitting in our pew" glare... When Barb went forward for communion, the pastor simply stared at her and said nothing. Just a blank stare.
After the service, not one person came up to her or greeted her. After what seemed like an eternity, Barb finally left. As she entered the parking lot, she noticed the pastor fully engaged with a church member, so she quietly slipped away.
Is it an understatement to say that "churches are not always as welcoming to first time visitors as they like to think they are"? Church hospitality needs to be continually refreshed. Pastor, this is so important that you can't afford to delegate this to just anyone. Find someone with passion about church hospitality!
Simple things please church visitors
Church visitors aren't high maintenance. Their expectations aren't that great. Frankly, it's fairly easy to please and even surprise church visitors with just a little bit of effort by the church hospitality team. All it takes is for the pastor to lead with intention.
- Appoint a rover to watch for church visitors, greet them and introduce them to a few folks.
- Train the official greeters in the art of making a hospitable and meaningful greeting.
- Teach the ushers to actually pay attention to the church visitors, to learn their names and introduce them to others in the audience.
- Pastor, remind the church every week just how important it is to welcome visitors and to greet people they don't know.
- Create an opportunity for visitors to meet the Pastor after the service.
- Do not, under any circumstances, have visitors stand and introduce themselves to the congregation.
- If the worship service is full, the worship leader should have the congregation make room for late arriving visitors.
Additional Church Hospitality Resources
- Can Megachurches be Church Visitor Friendly
- 1 Powerful Technique to Revolutionize Church Hospitality
- Church Visitors Won't Hear Your Story
- Make visitors easy to spot without putting them on the spot
- Conversational Questions for Church Greeters
- Church visitors' gifts that surprise and delight
- Church Visitors: 10 Steps to Improve Visitor Retention
How do you brush up your church hospitality?
When it comes to the care and treatment of church visitors, there's probably nothing new under the sun. But maybe you've got a new wrinkle that the rest of us would find helpful. How do you keep the church's hospitality fresh and responsive?