I think you’ll agree that when we’re welcoming people to our church for the first time, sometimes we over-complicate things, but in a guest’s mind, all questions boil down to this simplicity: Will I come back to this church?
If someone is visiting your church for the first time, they are not walking through the door having decided that they’ll be life-long members through thick or thin. They are exploring your church, experiencing it for the first time, and discovering if it’s a fit for them.
Imagine that first date with that one guy who thinks he needs to have helium balloons, two-dozen roses, and a helicopter ride in order for her to want to go on a second date – the reality is, she’s just there to get to know this guy.
Let’s not swing too far the other way and say preparation doesn’t matter. Just like getting your haircut before a date, or tidying the house before guests come over, preparing your church and your team to welcome guests will remove the distractions from them getting to know who you really are and deciding if they’ll be back next week.
Here are 21 simple ways you can make a guest feel welcome at your church this weekend. Most are free and can be implemented this weekend, but don’t pressure yourself to tackle the whole list. Send this list to your team, pick a few to work on this weekend, and add a few more next Sunday. If you’re really ready to make an incredible first impression, divide the list by the sections and have a team look after each section!
Each of these 21 ways will make a difference in making your guests feel welcome, and they’re so simple, there’s no need for an explanation, but leave your comments at the bottom of the page so we can all learn together!
21 simple ways to make your church’s guests feel welcome:
On your campus, outside of your building:
- Walk around the outside of your building and pick up any garbage or debris that would block a parking space or sidewalk.
- Have portable outdoor signage? Make a checklist of all of your signage and where it goes. Have a team member’s responsibility be to put out all of the signage on the list.
- Be sure your permanent signage (road signs, building signs, parking lot arrows) is clean and not blocked by branches or obstructions.
- Ask your team to park farthest away from the building to save the closest spots for guests.
- Check that you have umbrellas for guests. Even if it’s not raining, have someone escort them from their car in the shade of an umbrella and welcome them to church.
- Have clear signs showing your entrance and letting guests know that you’re expecting visitors who may not know where to go.
- Wipe the doors and windows that guests will walk by so they are free of fingerprints and dust.
Inside your building:
- Check all of the doors and windows that guests will walk by for fingerprints on the inside of your building.
- Sweep / vacuum the floors, checking the corners for dust and candy wrappers.
- Check that the restroom dispensers (soap, paper products) are stocked, mirrors wiped, garbages emptied and floors are clean.
- Have a bowl of mints (or multiple bowls of mints) in high-visibility places like you welcome desk, restroom counters or cafe area so guests can be sure they have fresh breath and comfortable having a conversation.
- Provide mints for your first impressions team. Don’t let your door greeter welcome someone with a smile, great handshake, and herb-and-garlic breath from that morning’s breakfast bagel.
- Check your mats for wiping shoes and coat hanging area are neat, clean and easily identifiable for guests, especially on cold-weather or rainy days.
- Restock all information items that someone may want to take home with them. This could include an information desk or display, the seat-back pockets of your chairs or pews or a stand-alone table for a guest speaker or missionary.
During Your Service:
- Acknowledge that you’re happy to have guests visiting your church today.
- Tell your guests how / where to get more information about your church (like your information desk, complete a connection card or visit our website)
- If you use a word that’s not part of common language, explain what it means so your guests can understand.
- Tell your guests what is coming next (through a printed bulletin, slides on your screens or by having someone host the service and verbally welcome guest and let them know what to expect).
- Offer your guests the opportunity to request prayer. This could be written on a connection card, inviting them to the front at the end of service to pray with your team, or have a location where they can go to ask for prayer.
- Give your guests visuals. If you have screens, use them to display information about announcements. Give a hand out about an upcoming event, or include and reference information in your bulletin.
- Let your guests know what their next step is. Would you like them to visit a small group? Would you like them to take a class to learn about your church? Would you like them to submit a connection card so someone can follow up this week with email? Would you simply like them to come back next Sunday?
Making your guests feel welcome is about removing distractions so they can focus on getting to know your church and moving closer in their relationship with Jesus. There are many other ways that you can help people have a great first impression. Ask yourself “Would this distract people from getting to know Jesus and our church?” and if the answer is yes, then what could be done differently?
Have an idea that didn’t make our list? Leave it in the comments below so we can all learn together!