Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions New People at Church? Great! 7 Do's and Don’ts

New People at Church? Great! 7 Do's and Don’ts

Have you been in your church for so long that you’ve forgotten what it’s like to enter the building for the first time?

Do you want to make guests feel welcome, but need help seeing your congregation through new eyes?

I have moved twice in the past two years, both times to a new community where I had few connections. As a result, I have visited a number of congregations in search of a new church home.

Based on my experiences, I offer this practical list of do’s and don’ts for welcoming guests to your church.

1. Do have knowledgeable greeters and clear signage.

As a guest, it can be intimidating for me to walk into a church I’ve never visited before. You can help ease the transition by having signs that clearly mark the path to the sanctuary, and greeters near the entrances who can show me where to go.

Please don’t make me wander around lost, looking for someone who can direct me. Instead, train your greeters to recognize and welcome guests.

In my experience, the most helpful greeters have an updated list of Bible study classes, know the classes’ age ranges and locations, and are available to guide guests to the class of their choice.

2. Don’t automatically sign me up for your mailing list.

If I visit your congregation one time, please don’t sign me up to receive your church newsletter, pastor’s email update or class text message every week.

I certainly will want to receive these messages if I continue coming to your church, but right now I am visiting multiple congregations.

If your visitor’s card includes a way for me to opt-in to receive your updates, that’s helpful. But if you automatically start sending me messages I didn’t sign up for, that feels a bit like spam.

3. Do have a website with updated information.

Before I ever visit your church, I will visit your website.

Truth be told, if I find a horribly outdated site or no website at all, it will affect my opinion of your congregation. Your website speaks to your church’s values, priorities and activities, without my ever entering the front door of the building.

The most helpful websites I have found include practical information for visitors (Where do I park? What should I wear?), a current bulletin or newsletter that helps me get a feel for the church’s activities, and an updated list of Bible study classes with ages and locations.

4. Don’t make me stand out.

While some folks might like to be in the spotlight, this should not be required for a visitor to your congregation. In my experience, it is awkward to stand during a welcome time while the congregation sits or to sit while the congregation stands. This can increase a guest’s sense of isolation and newness.

Similarly, the act of walking to the front of the church to join the congregation can be intimidating and can cause some people to procrastinate making a commitment. While this is the common practice in many congregations, I appreciate when churches allow individuals to join by meeting with the pastor, attending an orientation class or something similar.