Most of the time, the impression your church makes on first-time visitors is determined before the first song is sung. And first impressions matter. Often, when planning church services, we can neglect an important aspect of our worship gatherings—how we welcome first-time visitors.
Around Easter, my friend Mark Waltz shared some dos and don’ts to ensure that your guest services team makes visitors feel welcome. Below is Mark’s list as well as a couple of my own thoughts.
DO expect new guests…and the implications of that expectation.
The only way you can prepare for new guests is to expect that they will come. Your team should be prepared every Sunday to welcome guests.
DO respect people.
It’s pretty simple. Remember the golden rule, no matter who walks in the front doors.
This one is easy to miss. Oftentimes, in our attempt to create the best system or process, we leave God out of the equation.
DO thank your guests.
Whether it’s a simple thank you on their way out or a welcome gift, make sure you communicate how grateful you are that your visitors decided to join you.
DON’T treat people like “twice-a-yearers.”
Don’t assume that visitors are there out of obligation or tradition. If you do, you might miss the opportunity to fully engage them during their visit.
DON’T invite just anyone to serve your guests.
Be intentional about who serves on your guest services team. Whose face would you want to see if you walked through the door for the first time?
DON’T go on autopilot.
It’s easy to get caught up in a routine every Sunday, but the moment we go on autopilot, we risk missing an opportunity to provide that extra touch in welcoming someone.
DON’T be too friendly.
People are quick to realize when someone is being fake. Don’t worry about being overly friendly. Be genuine.
And here are two of my own ideas:
DO give them an incentive to volunteer information.
Most guests aren’t crazy about giving out their contact info just because you ask for it during the welcome. Think of a creative way to encourage them to provide their information. For instance, if they turn in their welcome card, you’ll give them a free CD or you’ll donate $1 to a local charity.
DON’T make them raise their hands.
Hopefully, your church stopped doing this in 1986, but nothing makes a first-time guest feel more awkward than having to identify himself or herself during the service. If you want them to come back, it’s probably a good idea to refrain from calling them out.
What other DOs and DON’Ts would you add?