Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Pet. 4:9-11)
Last year I participated in a cohort designed to train leaders and volunteers to connect well with new people attending church. One church shared they used several books to help train volunteers. The person in charge of the training became worried when a volunteer came in and threw the book, Be Our Guest, on the table. When asked what they thought of the book, the volunteer responded, “This is one of the most convicting books I’ve read. The people at Disney care more for their guests than our church does.”
It was a punch right in the gut.
The Lord is actively working in our communities. He goes before us and calls people to Himself. He is sending people to your church to worship Him and get connected to community. How is your church doing at helping those who enter feel welcomed and valued? Hospitality is not a special spiritual gift for a select few. It is a command given to all of God’s people. Is your church actively pursuing guests as they come in? Do your people have eyes to see those who are new or need to be welcomed? Or are your people connecting with only each other and being perceived as a clique?
Creating a culture of hospitality is vital for every church, and you have to be intentional in cultivating that culture. Here are four ways to help guests feel welcomed and valued.
Help them know where to go. How do people know where to go when they arrive at your church? Is there signage? Are there people in the parking lot greeting? Is it on your website? Statistics show that people form a first impression in the first five minutes upon arrival. Being at a new place is hard. Being lost or confused about where to park or where to enter can bring about anxiety and frustration. Ensure clear signage and instructions are provided concerning where to park and where to go.
Encourage members to greet newcomers. You may have a greeting team when people come in, but does anyone else in the church approach newcomers? In normative size churches (congregations under 100), it is fairly obvious who the new people are. Encourage leaders and elders to greet them and tell them, “We are glad you are here!” Because you are! Talk to your members about the importance of noticing and reaching out to people outside their circle of friends.
Identify new guests for follow up. Encourage visitors to fill out a connect card and, if possible, give them a gift. It can help make a good first impression because, come on, everyone likes a gift! And it can be especially nice to receive an unexpected gift. After you get the response card, give them a call the next day. Have someone in the church send them a handwritten note. This helps people know they are seen and valued.
Set a specific time for the next visit. Intentionally lay a foundation for people to come back. It is fantastic you had guests visit your church, but you want them to return, feel connected, and become active members. The website “Pastor Mentor” says, “The average church sees 6% to 10% of their first-time guests return for a second visit, 25% of their second-time guests return for a third visit, and 35% of their third-time guests become regular attenders.” How are you encouraging guests to take their next step?
God is calling visitors to come to our churches. May we be good stewards of those God is entrusting to our care.
Published May 8, 2018