When visitors attend a particular church body, one of the biggest factors influencing their first impression is how they were received. Attending a new church can be an overwhelming experience for believers and unbelievers alike, but the experience is less intimidating when they feel welcome. Here are some things you can do to make your church more visitor-friendly.
Be Welcoming but Not Overbearing.
There’s a fine line between being friendly and being overbearing. While some churches have found the sweet spot, many are still shooting and missing in this area. Generally, visitors appreciate a kind welcome at the door and assistance finding their way around. But if they were honest with you, they would probably say they could do without the over-enthusiastic welcome and interrogation that tends to happen the minute they walk through the door.
This is not to say we should do away with thoughtful gestures such as fresh coffee in the foyer, a goodie bag/free mug, or a “visitors, we’re glad you’re here” during the service intro! These are good welcome efforts. Just try to present these tokens casually and naturally, and get rid of any welcoming strategies that single visitors out and make them feel uncomfortable.
“How we engage guests—especially first-time guests—can determine not only whether they will return, but also whether they will judge us as genuinely interested in them.”
– Marty Duren, Groups Pastor at Green Hill Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee
See Visitors as Image-Bearers, Not Numbers
We tend to get excited when we see someone new walk through the doors on Sunday morning. It’s hard to not see a visitor as a potential member. But we need to fight this urge! We need to stop viewing visitors as potential assets to our church body and instead see them as individuals made in the image of God, worthy of love and respect. When you seek to serve visitors instead of retaining visitors, there’s less pressure and everything shifts, from our attitude to the questions we ask. And hopefully, this will result in them feeling valued for who they are, not for what they can bring to the table.
Provide Helpful Resources via Signage, Screens, Etc.
Greeting a visitor warmly and making yourself available for any questions they have before, during, or after the service is certainly an effective strategy for visitors. But be sure you’re also giving guests some breathing room so that they can process and observe.
One way to do this is to put pertinent information such as bathroom locations, nursery directions, etc., on signs, screens, and brochures so that if a guest doesn’t feel like talking to a member of the greeting team, they can still find everything they need. This ministers to introverts especially; it takes enough courage to walk into a new place not knowing anyone, let alone have a conversation. Something as simple as a map in the foyer or pickup instructions on the nursery checkout tag can minister to visitors.