Church greeters who serve well are essential to the church that wants to convert church visitors into church members. They are the picket line, the gatekeepers of an effective assimilation process.

I’ve written elsewhere that how a church visitor perceives the church’s friendliness is crucial in church visitors returning for a second visit Thom Rainer’s research confirms this. His book,  Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them, lists friendliness as #3 on the list of factors that determine whether visitors return. He cites the following factors:

  1. The Pastor and the preaching
  2. The doctrines of the church
  3. The friendliness of the congregation

The battle for return church visitors is waged in the lobby

If Church Marketing Sucks is correct – that less than 20% of visitors will return – then every aspect of the church hospitality ought to be improved.

This presents a unique opportunity for interim pastors. The church often looks at the interim period as fluid. Things are in flux. This makes it an ideal time to tinker with a few systems. Interim pastors often have a bit more liberty so take advantage of this and fix the hospitality! Remove as many obstacles to a return visit as you can.

One sure-fire way to rev up church hospitality is to staff with new greeters.

Greeters lose passion after a while

I’ve noticed that even the most enthusiastic greeters lose passion after a long stint in that ministry. We’ve all had those funky periods where we go thru the motions but the oomph just isn’t there.

Greeters are like Sunday school teachers and Nursery workers. They need a break once in a while!

Do a little reconnaissance this Sunday. Check how the greeters are doing. If the most animated part of their ministry is handing pieces of paper to visitors, it is probably time for a break.

Assignment: Spend a few minutes before the service – time it for when the majority of visitors arrive – and look at your greeters. Ask yourself, “Are these the right people to project the best initial image of our church?”

New greeters energize church hospitality

Giving the greeters a break is a good news situation. New greeters are thrilled being asked to serve. They bring new energy to the church hospitality offerings.

They show up on time!

In one church I supervised eight teams of greeters. We had four weekend services, so four teams per weekend. We rotated on a monthly basis. When we brought new greeters on the team they were eager to be part of a team functioning at a high level. Their enthusiasm encouraged the rest of the team!

I’ve also observed that new greeters are more committed to the work when the pastor recruits them. One of my Sunday priorities in this congregation was to have the radar on, looking for people who appeared to be at ease talking with others, had a smile on their face and projected a personality.

Assignment: If you are an interim pastor take it on yourself to identify a few new greeters this Sunday.

Recent church visitors make the best church greeters

You know who makes the best church greeters?

People who are new to the church!

Putting them on duty accomplishes several things at once:

  • It gives them an opportunity to meet more people in the church
  • It puts them to work in a low-demand position so you can measure their reliability in the small things.
  • They will share their enthusiasm with new church visitors – they’ll close the deal for you!
  • They are nearest to those awkward feelings church visitors experience

Be sure your service begins on a “visitor friendly” note

Although this is a blog post about church greeters and hospitality, I want to say an additional word to the pastor.

You can do a great deal to convey an atmosphere of openness, care and consideration of church visitors if you start your service like this:

“Hi, my name is Bud Brown and I’m the pastor here and I am delighted that you have chosen to worship with us this morning. Although I don’t yet know your name I have been praying for you this past week [don’t say this if it isn’t true].

In our worship time we’ll receive the offering. Because you are our guests we want you to feel comfortable. Please, don’t put anything in the offering. We believe the offering is an act of worship for those who call this their church home.”

Also, please limit your announcements to two. Visitors sit thru the announcements without a clue as to what you’re saying. The information the congregation needs can be found on the church web page, in the printed bulletin, in  an email blast on Monday morning or even on Facebook.

Believe me when I tell you, you can wean the congregation off of announcements and train them to look for them in all the other media channels.

Discussion Question

What is the single most successful thing you’ve done to improve the quality of church hospitality and increase church visitor retention at your church?