May 1, 2009
New Kids on the Block
It is a strange feeling. After years of being a pastor, my husband and I are back in the pew, and a strange pew at that. Let me tell you, it’s no fun being the new kids on the block as we show up at a strange church on Sunday morning. It’s lonely not seeing friends’ faces in the crowd of worshipers, and not being familiar with a church family’s unique habits and customs. It is so intimidating, as a matter of fact, that every Sunday we have to make a deliberate decision to attend church, and to keep trying to fit in and find our niche in a new place.
Our search for a new church home has opened our eyes to how important it is for a church to have a deliberate plan to welcome visitors. We pastors know this stuff, of course. I don’t think any pastor would argue about the importance of that first ten minutes for a newcomer. The first impressions visitors have of a church and a facility often determine whether they come back again next week.
While most churches have a plan to welcome newcomers, we often become complacent. It’s easy to take the plan for granted and not work as hard at it every Sunday as we should. For the first-time visitor, no Sunday is “just another Sunday.” From sad experience my husband and I can testify that the Sunday your greeters slacked off may have been the Sunday we showed up at your door, and we were the casualties of that poor performance.
Here are some reminders to make sure that every visitor feels the warm welcome your church wishes to convey every Sunday.
Develop Your Greeter Team
Greeters should go through training. They should have regular refresher courses every quarter, or at least twice a year. A greeter should have a brochure or welcome packet in hand that explains what is happening and where it is happening that Sunday morning. It should have enough basic information to make an outsider feel more like an insider.
Pastor, create a visitor-friendly atmosphere by expecting the whole congregation to be part of the welcoming committee. Your encouragement from the pulpit will remind your church family that it is everyone’s responsibility to make people feel at home.
Which Way to the Restroom?
Insiders take for granted where everything is located. Attractive and plentiful directional signs convey a welcoming message to newcomers.
First Impressions Are Important
The junk that has accumulated above the coat racks might not bother you anymore, but clutter is a turnoff to a visitor. Clean carpets, spic-and-span restrooms and fresh paint are important details that can make any church, new or old, look more attractive.
Any church can develop blind spots when it comes to welcoming visitors. Try putting together a team who periodically comes to church as “visitors,” armed with a report card that rates each detail of a church’s welcome plan. Seeing things from a newcomer’s eyes can be eye-opening!
There is no way to be all things to every visitor that comes through the doors. But we can all strive to be like Allan, a lovely young man we have recently met. In his simple way he steps forward to greet us at the door of the church every Sunday morning. Last Sunday I thanked him for the great job he does. He replied, “I just do what I can.” Preach it, brother!