What I’ve noticed is, no matter what size your church is, there are some really simple things you can do to make your church feel more welcoming to visitors. We don’t know what background or experience our visitors have had with churches in the past (or if they’ve had any experience at all) and so we want to be welcoming without being overwhelming.
Small churches are often very good at welcoming; it’s one of our greatest strengths. We can easily spot someone who’s not part of the usual crowd, and go and welcome them. But no matter how much your church might pride itself on its welcoming, there is always room for improvement, and these simple ideas will make a world of difference to your visitors.
Let’s get into it!
Nix the in-service, personalised visitor welcome
This is an age-old problem, particularly in small churches. This is when visitors are welcomed at the door, and someone finds out their names. Then, 20 minutes later during the service, someone announces the visitors' names and points out where they are sitting. They might even ask their precious visitors to stand up!
The visitors are probably thinking something along the lines of ‘HAALP, WHAT HAVE WE GOTTEN INTO?’ and are dying on the inside from embarrassment. Their cover as visitors has been blown.
Thankfully, this is a simple fix. Simply, stop announcing who the visitors are during the service. You can still throw out a general welcome to any visitors who might be with you that day, and your visitors will thank you for recognising that they might want to be at least a little bit elusive.
Add a visitor call-to-action
I am big on call-to-actions, because I am quite sure that someone is ten times more likely to do something if you tell them to. Plus, you’ve done all of this work to get new people into your church, and you need to give them some kind of follow up if you’d like them to stick around. So, simply make sure you are asking your visitors to do something. Examples of a good visitor call-to-action are:
Have a coffee in the cafe after the service, on us!
Fill out your welcome card and we’ll send you some more info about Waterside Church!
Stop by our welcome table and meet Jen, she knows this place like the back of her hand, and she’ll be able to help you get connected.
Create a welcome booklet
Create a simple welcome booklet that will give details on everything a visitor might want to know about your church. From your vision and mission statements and the beliefs that you hold true to at your church, through to info about the staff and the ministries that you have available, a welcome booklet can provide a great reference to new people in the church.
One thing I do recommend is that you invest a little in having your booklets professionally printed. This is a surefire way to make your visitors feel valued because you have literally invested in them, and given them something of quality.
Put signs up!
It sounds very simple, but when you’re a visitor at a church, you probably don’t know where anything is. Church buildings can be rabbit warrens, so having some clear signs pointing to key locations in the building (think main church area, bathrooms, coffee, kids ministry) can help visitors orient themselves and feel more confident moving forward. Make sure you name your rooms in a logical way, rather than giving them odd or confusing names. For example, at our church, the old lobby is now a room for nursing mothers. If we wrote on the sign, ‘The Old Lobby’, it might sound interesting, but any new nursing mothers would have no idea that that’s a dedicated room for them. Makes sense, right?
Explain what’s going to happen in the service
Near the beginning of your service, it's a great idea to have the service leader explain what is going to happen. This doesn’t need to be detailed or patronising, but we do need to assume that there could be someone at church who has never stepped foot in a church before.
You could say something like “Welcome everyone to church today. We’re so glad you could be here with us as we talk about TOPIC NAME. If you haven’t been here before, today we’re going to sing a few songs, have a prayer and give updates on what’s happening around the church. Then we’ll read the Bible and someone will get up to talk for about 20 minutes on the passage we’ve just read. We’ll close the service with a song and then everyone is invited to have coffee and morning tea together afterward.”
This short explanation will ease the burden of the unknown from your visitors’ minds, and make them feel that little bit more at ease.
Use considered language
Often when I’ve approached visitors in the past, I feel a little awkward talking to them, and things don’t come out the way I wish they did, because I’m still feeling nervous that I’m introducing myself to a stranger. There’s always that moment when I want to ask why they are at my church, without asking “What are you doing here?” and feeling like I’m accusing them. Well, the following phrase is a lifesaver for that exact moment.
Here it is. Ask: “What brings you here today?”
This is a great, open-ended question, and you’re not accusing or assuming anything.
So that’s it, friends! Have questions, comments or thoughts on this post? I’d love to hear them! Tweet me @salt_society or comment below and let me know!