7 Tips for Improving “Guest Friendliness”
J. Marcus Merritt, State Missionary
I have had some wonderful experiences in my twenty-six+ years in the ministry, serving two pastorates and two state conventions. However, there is one disappointing experience that happens time and time again. It concerns the way many churches treat their guests. The Bible commands us to pay special attention to visitors, saying, “do not forget to entertain strangers,” (Heb. 13:2a). However, the sad fact is that many churches fail miserable in this area.
Allow me to illustrate. Recently, I was speaking at a church that was warm and welcoming to me, as I was the invited guest speaker. However, my friend accompanied me and sat on a different pew. Not one person in the church spoke to him, shook his hand, or made any attempts to find out anything about him. This unfortunate scenario has played out dozens of times over the years. Would you want to return to that church if that happened to you?
As Thomas Hammond once said, “Your church cannot grow without visitors, and your church cannot grow if your visitors don’t come back!” That is why I am convinced that in order to foster a culture of evangelism within a church, there must be a concerted effort to make sure visitors come back.
If you ask the average church member, “Is this a friendly church?” The answer you would likely hear would be, “YES, we are the friendliest church in town!” And most congregations are friendly to each other. The problem is that they have never been taught by the pastor and staff how to be friendly and welcoming to guests.
So how does a church family “entertain strangers” without embarrassing them or making them feel uncomfortable? Allow me to offer a few tips.
- Reserve the best parking places for guests – those spots should be clearly marked.
- Have greeters in the parking lot, or at least outside on the front porch to greet and assist guests before they ever get inside.
- Greeters on the inside should provide bulletins, newsletters, and any upcoming opportunities for fellowship.
- Do not tell them how to get to the nursery, or Sunday School class, etc. – TAKE THEM! Teach your members that every one of us should consider ourselves honorary greeters.
- However you choose to recognize visitors in the service, make sure they feel welcomed and not embarrassed.
- Teach your congregation to introduce themselves to guests. No, your guests will not remember all their names but they will remember the unique experience they had at your church!
- Follow-up with every guest should be made within thirty-six hours.
The key to welcoming guests really lays with the rank and file members of your church. Pastor, it is your job to equip them. The Office of Evangelism Ministries would love to come to your church or association and lead a seminar on this subject. This ministry is made possible thanks to your Cooperative Program gifts.