Some years ago, I served as the interim pastor of a county-seat First Baptist Church in Kentucky. One week I received a note from a woman who had visited our church. She told me that I was the only one who greeted her when she visited. Her note prompted two reactions in me. I was relieved that at least I had greeted her, but I felt dismayed that no one else had done so. In reaction, I shared this with the congregation both in a service and in the church newsletter. I encouraged them to greet all our church guests.
Well, how well does your church do in welcoming guests? I discussed this with Charles Wilson, who formerly served as Director of Church Evangelism for Texas Baptists. He said, “All churches think of themselves as friendly. The reality is that most members are friendly to their friends, but not to visitors.” When my wife and I moved to Texas in 2016, we sought a new church home. We visited several churches during our search. At one large church, not one person spoke to us, either before or after the service. We weren’t treated rudely; we were just ignored. To be fair, other churches we visited welcomed us warmly. In August of this year, we moved from Dallas County to Tarrant County (Fort Worth area). At the first church we visited, the only greeting we received was from the man who opened the door for us. At the second church we visited, we were greeting at the door, inside the door, and then again in the foyer. We joined the second church. The two unfriendly churches didn’t realize that they could have gained a trained Bible teacher and a dedicated tither and prayer warrior (my wife, Barbara). How many others have they lost due to their inattention?
Several years ago, Head and Shoulders shampoo sponsored an advertising campaign that featured the slogan–“You only have one chance to make a good impression.” That’s true in many areas of life, but it is especially true in church life. The American Restaurant Association reports that diners visiting a restaurant for the first time decide within 10 minutes whether they will return or not. The same holds true for church visitors. Your parking, signage, and greeters can make a good impression or a bad impression.
Well, what can you do at your church?
- First, be intentional about greeting guests. Develop a plan that includes parking, clear signs, and cheerful greeters.
- Second, make sure you have greeters assigned (and present) at the entrances to your building. There are training modules that will make them more effective.
- Third, encourage your members to be alert to and active in welcoming guests. Most of our folks sit in the same place every Sunday. Ask one or two in each section to be responsible to welcome guests who sit in their section.
- Last, strive to get contact information from guests. I realize this is a perennial challenge. The last church I served told guests that we had a gift for those who would turn in a guest card. The gift was a ceramic mug that had Central Baptist Church-A Place for You printed on the sides. That offer helped a lot in getting guest cards.
So, let me ask you again. How friendly is your church? Do you have suggestions to share with our readers?