7 simple steps to 1st rate church hospitality

 

friendly-churchWhen was the last time you visited a place that billed itself as “the unfriendliest church in town?”

Me either.

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!

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Church visitors won’t hear your story from magnets and mugs!

One of the many mysteries of the church is the following lament I’ve heard from pastors all over the country:  “I don’t understand why our church visitors don’t come back. We greet them in the parking lot. We help them find the nursery. Some of our members go so far as to speak to them. We even give coffee mugs and brochures!”

What went wrong here? This pastor hit all the key tasks for hospitality ministry. If the worship is engaging, WHY DON’T VISITORS COME BACK?

Church visitors don’t return for a multitude of reasons. But for churches that do all the right things, what else can they do?

I think the answer (in the form of a quandary) is that they did everything right until the guests left the building and the hospitality efforts abruptly stopped when the door closed.

They don’t come back because they don’t know your story.

You didn’t connect them with your story and your church. Mugs, magnets and glossy brochures don’t tell the story. They don’t connect church visitors to the congregation.

The crucial task is connecting them with your story after they leave the parking lot.

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What does the research say about attracting church visitors?

Worship 1

[dc]H[/dc]Heal the sick, raise the dead and fill the pews – preferably with young families who’ll bring some vitality and energy to this place.

That’s the interim pastor’s call, isn’t it? But it’s a trap, a real Catch-22. The reality is that aging congregations trapped in a death spiral generally don’t want to make the changes needed. They’re just like the church in the old joke about praising the Lord in a liturgical church.

One Sunday a visitor showed up in a church being led by an interim minister. The church was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. That made it all the more obvious when this visitor shouted out “Praise the Lord!” When something the pastor said excited him.

One of the regular attenders leaned forward and tapped the man on the shoulder and whispered, “We don’t praise the Lord around here.”

Someone seated nearby heard this exchange and they said, “Yes we do. It’s on page 15 of the Lectionary.”

Part of the interim pastor’s job is to give client churches a stiff dose of reality: steadfast refusal to allow changes that inject spiritual vitality traps the church in a death spiral. Unless the interim can break this deadlock the church’s future prospects are bleak indeed.

This is where the  Faith Communities Today Project comes in. They have produced a very helpful tool, Insights Into: Attracting and Keeping Members Every interim pastor should keep on file. The rich content – data, graphs, analysis and recommendations – make this a helpful teaching tool for churches in transition. In this article I want to hit some of the highlights of the report, but I urge you to download it and keep it handy. Chance are you’ll need it.

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Can megachurches be church visitor friendly?

A colleague of mine once visited a mega-church in southern California while on vacation. The 6,000 seat auditorium was filled to capacity that Sunday morning. He was quite surprised when, during the ritual exchange of the secret Churchman’s handshake, an elderly lady made her way down the aisle from several rows back to greet him with a, “Hi, this is your first time here, isn’t it?”

He was flabbergasted! “Yes, it is. How did you know?”

“Because you’re sitting in my seat.”

According to my friend this is a true story.

Church visitors: opportunity and challenge

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Church visitors’ gifts that surprise and delight

Church hospitality is a vital ministry. This is especially true for congregations with a very low church visitor retention rate. To offer anything less than superb church hospitality is sad. To neglect turning visitors into members puts the church in a death spiral.

One element of a rich experience that leaves church visitors going, “Wow. That was a great church!” is a gift that is culturally proper, distinct from  “run of the mill” items, and something so useful they will use it often. Every time they do they’ll think of your church!

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1 powerful technique to revolutionize church hospitality

Turnaround pastors have a unique opportunity to permanently change the trajectory of church hospitality.

Our “information gathering” in churches doesn’t even capture the majority of guests. Auxano research shows that five to eight percent of your worshipping community will self-identify as guests. Therefore the number of guests in one year is: [ (Ave. weekly worship attendance) x (.05) x (52)]

  • Will Mancini

Two factors work in your favor. First, you have more church visitors in a year than you think.

Second, you have a great deal of freedom because the church hired you to guide them thru change!

In this article I want to share with you one powerful technique that will rock your next church visitor’s world. By recognizing and using the power of narrative you can make it one of the most attractive and hospitable churches a church visitor will ever encounter.

Recognize the power of narrative

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3 easy ways to wow church visitors

[dc]A[/dc] previous post asserts that extraordinary hospitality for church visitors isn’t hard. Eliminate the things church visitors dislike, set the bar for church hospitality higher and it’s more likely they’ll return for a second visit.

Now that you’ve cleared the deck of things church visitor dislike let’s turn up the “wow” factor. Let’s re-think church hospitality so guests go away feeling great for having visited.

1: Give church visitors an online video tour

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Give church visitors a fresh face to look at

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

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Extraordinary hospitality for church visitors

[dc]E[/dc]xtra ordinary hospitality is probably the last thing church visitors expect on a Sunday morning.

I find that odd.

After all, church visitors visit because the Father is drawing them. Since God gives us the chance to join in this work, hospitality – odd as it may sound – is a heavenly vocation. We are derelict in our duties when we fail to extend extraordinary hospitality.

But there’s good news in the bad.

Interim Pastors have a chance to bless the church and wow church visitors. Simply eliminate  the things visitors dislike and offer the unexpected. If you do, generations will rise up and call you blessed.

Eliminate what church visitors dislike

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