“No one greeted me.”
“The church was unfriendly.”
“They clearly don’t plan to have any guests.”
No pastor wants their church to be known for any of these.
We decided to create a list of 11 small things your church can do to make your guests feel more welcome.
1. Provide guest information online to show church hospitality.
It is almost cliche that the new front door is the church’s website. If your church doesn’t have a website or it doesn’t provide information for guests, you are losing a major opportunity. Not everyone uses the internet, but the majority of young families Google a church before they attend it.
Is there clear information on your website about your children’s programing? Is there a map to help visitors find your church? Do you have the address clearly written so guests can type it in their iPhone or navigation system in the car?
As someone who frequently does secret shopper consultations to help churches improve security, evaluate ministries, and provide an assessment of communication clarity (among many other components of the visit), I am in awe of how little time and money some churches spend on their website and how much many others spend on theirs. Where does your church fall?
Regardless of the quantity of time/money, when is the last time you searched your town’s name and the word church? (ie “New York City church”) If you don’t show up on the first 1-2 pages, you have given up on one of the most effective ways to connect with those looking for a church in your specific community.
To illustrate the value of a strong website presence, if you were to add one family per month because they found you by searching your city name + church, think about how you would impact giving. If we took a conservative estimate of you adding one family per month who tithes $100/month, you are looking at increasing your church’s giving by at least $1200/month within 12 months. What if those numbers were bigger? What if you had more people? The point is obviously not about finances only. It is about changed lives. But I think pastors should see the return on their investment in a secret shopper and how one annual assessment can more than pay for itself if you only add 6-12 new families.
2. Address visitors from the stage.
I’m not suggesting that you ask guests to stand up. (although this may be appropriate in some contexts) I do suggest that you make a reference to visitors from the stage.
An easy way to do this is to say “Visitors, we’re so glad to have you today. We would love to get a chance to know you. Make sure to introduce yourself to someone, or visit with one of the pastors in the back after service”
3. Sit in the middle of the row of seats.
Challenge your leaders to sit in the middle of the rows at church. When a guest has to walk past 3 or 4 people in order to get to a seat, their discomfort level goes up.
Why not have your leaders sit in the middle of the rows so the seats that are easy to access are available for the guests. This step may frustrate some, but it also gives your leaders another chance to serve. Also if church hospitality frustrates your leaders, you may want to have a discussion about character and servant leadership.
4. Put the words on the screen.
If you expect everyone to know the words to every song, you also communicate that you expect to not have visitors. (or at least not have non-Christian visitors or visitors outside of your denomination)
All churches could easily put the words to the songs on a big screen in the front of a church. If your church is more liturgical, you may want to explain where the words are found so that someone attending for the first time can easily find the lyrics. (This may be a good option for a church that uses hymnals.)
5. Create easy entry points to community.
Start small groups and start them often. If you want to frustrate guests, make them wait 6 months before they can join a small group.
Create small groups every 2-3 months that are geared towards a new attender, potentially a non christian, or other audiences that want a way to get involved but can not commit at the level of a long term christian.
6. Use hashtags in your sermons.
When you use hashtags or a hashtag in your sermon you equip your congregation to share your message and also provide opportunities for non christians to learn about what you preach without attending.
The idea is to try new things in order to reach those who don’t know Jesus.
Be careful on this one. Make sure that you have an effective plan in place that someone very familiar with Facebook AND Twitter has evaluated prior to launching. These networks have unique cultures that require unique content. If posted appropriately and according to the right schedules, you can significantly increase the impact of your sermon content by having it shared online.
Think of it as equipping the people who know, trust, and like your teaching to share something they already love with their closest friends and family. Don’t hesitate to let our team know if you would like social media training for your church as we can teach you how to leverage social media connect with people locally who will likely consider visiting your church.
7. Provide a preview sermon online.
New attenders are curious about how the pastor preaches. Provide one sermon online so that people can hear what a sermon will be like on Sunday morning. This is an easy was to be more hospitable as a church.
8. Provide an example Sunday school lesson for kids.
Parents are curious about what you teach their children. You don’t have to provide all the lessons, but it is easy to simply provide one. Upload a PDF and you’ve taken yet another church hospitality step.
9. Clean the bathrooms.
When visitors come to your church, They are evaluating everything even if unconsciously. Their goal isn’t necessarily to put you or your church down. However they are trying to decide if this is a place they would like to worship.
Don’t let your bathrooms keep people from hearing about Jesus.
10. Encourage members to greet new people.
If you attend a large church it is hard to know everyone. But regardless of the church size try encouraging those who have attended for awhile to introduce themselves to someone they don’t know.
If you want to take a risk here, rather than have a 10 second handshake time try allowing 2-5 minutes for people to introduce themselves and find a way they can pray for someone sitting near them.
11. Create a clear information desk.
Guests wonder where to go to get information. Make it clear where they can ask questions without feeling lost or like a guest. If it is clear that you expect guests you will plan for them and not make them feel akward. Use a large sign, a certain color Tshirt, some way to make it clear who they can ask questions.
Which of these do you plan to take action now? Identify at least one and make a change this week.
What other suggestions do you have to improve church hospitality? Leave any other church hospitality questions in the comments below, we would love to hear from you.
The Malphurs Group offers a Sunday Secret Shopper Visit to improve your church hospitality and outside ministry navigators (otherwise known as Church Consultants) to walk your church through the strategic growth process. These services can ignite tremendous growth in your church and reinvigorate your ministry. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more.
Brad Bridges is the Vice President of the Malphurs Group, a leadership coach, strategy consultant, blogger at bradbridges.net, husband to Lindsey, and father of 3. | @bradbridges on Twitter | Website