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10 Ways to Make Visitors Feel Welcome at Your Church

Updated Oct 19, 2017
10 Ways to Make Visitors Feel Welcome at Your Church
Because I am a pastor’s wife, I am not normally in a position where I am new to a church. But for those visiting for the first time, feeling welcome and connected are vital to ensure they become permanent fixtures in your church. Here are some ways you can help make those newcomers to your congregation feel special, seen and loved.
1. Assemble a greeter’s team.

1. Assemble a greeter’s team.

At my church we have a hospitality team. This consists of two people standing at each side of the front doors of the church each week, to say hello, shake hands and answer questions. The most awkward aspect of walking into a new church is not knowing where to go or where the various programs are being held. Having people there who are knowledgeable and can help answer questions eases new visitors’ anxiety about being the new person on the church block. 

2. Institute a "first five" rule.

2. Institute a "first five" rule.

Churches experience growth spurts during certain seasons of a church’s life. To keep track of all the new people, my husband instituted the “first five” rule. At the end of the service, he challenged members to take the first five minutes before talking to their friends and introduce themselves to someone they don’t know. This was a big hit! Not only did new people feel welcomed, but also veteran members moved out of their comfort zones and forced them to meet new people they wouldn’t gravitate toward otherwise. 

3. Give a gift.

3. Give a gift.

When my family and I go on vacation, larger churches we visit have offered us a free gift as a way of saying welcome to our service. Some offered coffee cups, while others presented us with CDs of their worship team or t-shirts. A free gift doesn’t have to be expensive, but those carrying one helo greeters to know who is new so they can introduce themselves. 

4. Make a phone call.

4. Make a phone call.

Pastors are not the only ones who should call congregation members. In fact, a pastor who calls a new visitor is predictable and in some cases, expected. But a member who calls a new member demonstrates genuine care and concern for the guest’s wellbeing. If members are genuinely invested in the growth of their church, they can demonstrate that by chatting with them for just a few moments on the phone. 

5. Take an interest.

5. Take an interest.

Whether you are a leader or a congregation member, take an interest in the new people who visit. Although it’s impossible to keep track of every person who flits in and out of your service, those who might visit more than one month are good candidates to try to get to know better. Take them out for coffee and get to know them. Investing one hour in someone’s life may result in a permanent member (and perhaps a new friend!) 

6. Write a note.

6. Write a note.

In today’s technologically dependent world, it is rare to get a handwritten note. Taking a moment to write a note to a new guest thanking them for visiting can go a long way in solidifying their decision to return.

7. Bring a welcome basket.

7. Bring a welcome basket.

If you know where the newcomer lives and you have members who live near the newcomer, ask them to present them with a welcome basket from the church as a gift. Fill the basket with items that represent the church’s values. For example, if the church vows “to be a light to an unbelieving world” a basket with a light bulb, a desk lamp and a flyer about the church would be a creative and unique way to make the church a memorable one.  

8. Host a church-wide "guest who’s coming to dinner" party.

8. Host a church-wide "guest who’s coming to dinner" party.

This is where congregation members go to pre-determined hosts’ homes to eat and fellowship in the hopes of getting to know new attendees better. Although it can be intimidating to enter the homes of people you don’t know, you get a chance to ask questions to older members about how they got involved with the church, where they serve and about their personal lives, all questions you wouldn’t normally ask after a church service. People walk in as strangers, but walk out as friends. 

9. Host a game night.

9. Host a game night.

Some of my favorite church events involve food and games! Board games bring out people’s true personalities, allow people to relax and allow you to get to know others better. If you are uncomfortable hosting it in your home, ask if you would be allowed to meet at your church instead. 

10. Start a small group.

10. Start a small group.

I’m a huge advocate of small groups. Small groups cultivate the true connection and community people crave. Intimacy is impossible to manufacture in a casual conversation on a Sunday morning. But inviting someone either to an existing small group or starting one on your own is often the missing piece to a person’s yearning to belong and connect with others. 

Originally published Thursday, 19 October 2017.