How do you say “Welcome to Church!” ? The second biggest church attendance day of the year is just around the corner. What will your church be doing Easter Sunday to make guests feel welcome?
LifeWay Research asked 1,000 pastors what their churches do to welcome guests. The average pastor said their church does six different things.
More than 9 in 10 churches provide an opportunity to meet the pastor and have greeters at the entrance of their building.
A majority ask guests to complete cards (83 percent), have a central location where guests can learn about the church (78 percent), set aside time during the service for regular attenders to welcome guests (69 percent) and periodically host information sessions for new people to learn more about the church (65 percent).
Fewer pastors say their church has books in the pew for all attendees to indicate their presence (44 percent), have greeters in the parking lot (24 percent) or ask guests to stand in the worship service (17 percent).
Around 2 in 5 churches (42 percent) say they offer a gift to visitors. Of those who use gifts, the most popular are a mug or cup (38 percent), food (25 percent), a welcome packet about the church (25 percent) or a pen (23 percent).
Less popular gift items include a bag (18 percent), a book (14 percent), a bookmark (5 percent), a gift card (5 percent) or a Bible (4 percent).
One in 10 churches say they do something else to welcome guests, such as following up by mail (2 percent), with a personal visit (2 percent), with a phone call (1 percent) or with an email (1 percent).
Virtually every church does something. Fewer than 1 percent admit making no effort to welcome guests.
Perhaps as important as what you should do for guests to say welcome to church is what you should not do. Earlier this year the Lewis Center for Church Leadership compiled 4 Reasons Visitors Don’t Return.
- Inwardly friendly: The church is friendly but only with each other. Don’t let your visitor feel like an intruder.
- Uninspiring worship: There is a sense that folks are there out of obligation and not because they expect to experience God’s transforming love and grace.
- Vulture syndrome: Don’t let visitors feel like there’s a target on their back to fill a need in your church.
- No ministries: Even though a visitor isn’t likely to commit on Day One, the fact of the matter is many visitors are looking for ways to get involved. Even if they enjoy the worship experience or the Sunday School class they often do not return because nothing exists for their children.
LifeWay’s Research also found that larger churches tend to welcome guests in different ways than smaller churches. Why would smaller churches be less likely to say “Welcome to Church!”?
Those with an attendance of fewer than 50 are the most likely to say they have an opportunity for guests to meet the pastor after the service (98 percent) and ask guests to stand during the worship service (22 percent).
Meanwhile, pastors of churches with an attendance of more than 250 are the most likely to say they have cards for guests to complete (96 percent), have a central location for guests to learn more about the church (88 percent), periodically host information sessions for new people (85 percent), set aside a time for regular attenders to welcome guests (76 percent), have greeters in the parking lot (57 percent) and offer gifts to visitors (59 percent).
And then there is the sensitive topic of “to stand or not to stand.”
Thom S. Rainer, the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, said specific times of greeting during the worship service is one of the most polarizing methods of welcoming guests. If not done extremely well, those moments can often be awkward for the people churches are trying to welcome to church.
“Stand-and-greet times could be part of a welcoming experience for guests, but church members would need clear and firm guidance on being friendly to guests before and after the service,” he said. “Friendliness only during stand-and-greet times can do more harm than good.”
Regardless of church size, LifeWay’s findings show pastors recognize the importance of guest being welcome to church and want to make the most of the opportunity with a guest when it comes, and Easter Sunday is one of those moments.