Meeting new people and going to new places can be intimidating. Once you’ve introduced yourself to someone, that first interaction is crucial. Whether it was a great conversation, an uncomfortable situation, or somewhere in between––first impressions matter.
Your church welcome is the same. The way you find, greet, and welcome visitors into your community makes your first impression. And making a good first impression takes intentional, mindful planning.
If you feel your congregation is not growing in attendance or outreach, it may be time to examine the way you introduce visitors into your church.
To Improve Your Church Welcome, Ask Yourself the Following Questions:
How can visitors find our church?
Find the gaps in your current church outreach “system.” We bet even the most welcoming of churches will find areas to improve.
Are you promoting your events only in places that your current congregation sees?
Do you have a simple method for current members to invite others?
Is your website welcoming and informative for new visitors?
Answering these questions will help you identify places to reach new visitors even before they get to your welcome team. And that’s a great place to start.
After identifying ways to bring new members into your community, their first impression of you revolves around the events these visitors attend. Traditionally, this has been a Sunday service or an official new member meeting.
You can also embrace more casual ways to bring new visitors to your church––ways that will feel more personal and informal. An event like a community barbecue at a neighborhood park might be less intimidating to young visitors than an informational session in the physical church.
Be purposeful about asking your congregation to invite people who possibly have not had a personal or community-driven experience with their faith in the past. Events like these could start their journey with a church welcome in a more relaxing space.
Pro-tip: Having an eVites page on your website will allow your congregation to invite a specific person to a specific event via email. This can visually match the theme of the event or church, too, and that can help with positive name recognition.
Remember that some visitors may find your congregation indirectly: Maybe their children attend your VBS, but the family doesn’t (yet!) attend your services or engage in any other aspect of your church. By simply following up with the parents personally and inviting them to attend one of these more casual events, you may find another way to extend your welcome to an audience who is already listening. Make a point to acknowledge how their children responded to your church’s mission, and help them see how this relationship could grow and continue.
Do visitors know what to expect from our community?
The next step of your church welcome is to empower your new visitors with confidence. Joining a new group can be nerve-wracking––especially when it comes to very small details. Directions to the church, or where to park, knowing where to sit and what to wear, and understanding the structure of the service are all things that a new visitor has yet to experience. Give them this information beforehand to calm any nervousness.
Your church welcome doesn’t end as the Sunday service does. Depending on the size of your church and the amount of time your leadership is able to budget for outreach, it’s very important to engage with recent visitors. You should be seeking to better understand their first experience, but also to reach out to them and offer a personal connection. Answer any questions they have, congratulate them on this first step in their new faith journey, and provide information about how they might participate next.
View your ministry welcome through the eyes of your current members, too. Are they able to trust that your ministry has an inviting, personal process for engaging with the people they invite into this community? The stronger the trust they have in the process, the more likely they are to continue asking others to attend an event or service.
Why do some visitors not return?
It’s unrealistic to think that each and every visitor will find their perfect fit in your congregation. But that’s no excuse to stop asking why they didn’t come back.
What was it about the experience that could have made it better?
How could you have made a stronger connection?
Were there parts of the service that could have made them feel out of place?
Are there “insider” acronyms, terms, or traditions that a new visitor may not have understood?
Were there special circumstances or parts of the service that are out of the norm for your church? Let them know what may be “different,” especially because they don’t yet know what’s normal.
At any given event or service, there could always be new people––and the whole point of your church’s “welcome” is to help visitors leave feeling supported and excited as they grow in their faith.