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Effectively Welcoming Guests

As a church consultant, I’m frequently asked a variety of questions about taking one’s church to greater effectiveness. But, if there’s one question that I’m asked more than any other, that question would focus on assimilation plans, and particularly how to effectively welcome people to our church.

Now studies have been done, books written, programs sold, and conferences held on the subject, but let me simplify this for you by giving you a one-sentence target that will revolutionize the environment of your church–EVERYONE IS A GREETER!

I’ve seen well-organized congregations that have mastered so many elements of a hospitality program. They have it all, they do it all, but I’ve still seen people stand lost in their hallways as the enthusiastic congregants race toward their own seats in the auditorium. At the same time, I’ve been in under-resourced places where people feel immediate warmth and welcome because everyone they meet seems ready to be their friend. There’s simply no substitute for friendly people!

If your people view greeting guests as someone’s job, you have a mindset to fix. Everyone must be “on duty” when there are guests in the house!

My wife loves to invite people into our home for dinner, dessert, coffee, or really any excuse she can come up with. When our now-adult sons lived at home, they were quite accustomed to these evening events and were fully expected to be a part of them. They knew that if we have guests in the house, everyone’s on duty.

Now we all have differing abilities and comfort levels with social interaction. My youngest son is our entertainer. His personality lights up every room he enters. So, from the time he was able to extend a smile and handshake, he was often our front door guy, welcoming our guests and inviting them into our home. Our older son was a bit more introverted, but he would take coats and purses and point out available restroom facilities. My wife and I would quickly join the welcome, dropping everything else we might be doing to give our guests complete focus. Every member of the family was engaged in helping our guests feel at home in our house.

The mindset should be the same at church too. If greeting is someone else’s job, that sense of unfriendliness will be evident to guests. Those assigned greeters might not be sitting next to a guest in a service. They might not be standing at the restroom sink alongside a new attender when a simple “How ya doin?” or “Good to have you with us today?” might be just the line needed. Everyone seems to think that their church is a friendly place, but usually that just means it’s friendly to us. After all, our friends are there! When everyone’s a greeter, your guests start thinking your church is friendly too.

Frankly, no matter how good your hospitality efforts might be and no matter how warm your pastor might seem and no matter how neat and cool those with greeter tags might seem, if your people don’t see welcoming and connecting with guests as their assignment too, you’ll always be working uphill in your efforts to help people feel at ease in your church.

Never forget that your church is only as friendly as the guy sitting next to me!

If everyone will be a greeter at your church, you may need to provide specific encouragement and even training for your people. You must certainly model this critical attitude, and it might not be a bad idea to reward such efforts when you see them in action.

How tragic to engage your congregation in great outreach efforts, only to seemingly disregard the folks when they respond to your invite. You convinced them to visit, now treat them like you want them to feel at home. Everyone is a greeter!

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