At my church, we will be having an open house service in a couple weeks in which we have specifically invited everyone our church has touched this year. We expect several guest families to come and potentially many more than that. With the open house in mind, I thought I’d offer a few tips I’m sharing with my congregation to make our guests feel welcome. Really, these ideas are useful on any Sunday and so I’m presenting them here on the blog:
1. Arrive on time or early. While this is especially true for greeters, nursery workers, and Sunday school teachers, it’s a good habit for all of us. Visitors are most often on time. Coming to church as a visitor is awkward already. It becomes even more awkward to walk into an empty church or be directed to an empty classroom. More than one visitor has done a “drive-by” at a church and never came in the door because there were too few cars in the parking lot. Arriving on time communicates that you value what is taking place and that others should value it too.
2. Everyone is a greeter. Yes, most churches assign greeters each week to hand out bulletins, welcome packets, and give general directions. Still, after an initial greeting, many visitors feel awkwardly alone and out of place. All church members should see themselves as greeters too and be aware of those visitors among them. So introduce yourself, show guests where to go, ask if they got a welcome packet, invite them to attend class with you or sit with your family, introduce them to other church members, include them in your conversations. Don’t just say “hello.” Go the extra mile to make guests feel like they could be a part of your church.
3. Observe the “three minute rule.” Most visitors leave within three minutes of the close of the service while church members linger for ten to fifteen minutes. Make a special effort to use the first three minutes after the service to engage a visitor. Let them know how glad you are that they came. Try to get to know them a little better. If you have after church lunch plans with other church members, or are having a small group or other gathering that week, invite them to come along.
These are just a few ideas to help you be more effective in making your guests feel welcome. Help visitors see a real opportunity to be one of you and not an outsider. I’m glad to be part of a church with outstanding fellowship. We’re working hard to make it an open and expanding fellowship!
I got the idea for the “3-minute rule” from Ed Stetzer.