How Christian Churches Should Treat Visitors
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it." Hebrews 13:2 (NASB)
Many churches today compete for increasing their membership numbers. Unfortunately, people looking for a church home get lost in the crowd of marketing and even worse, established social cliques. Going to church should be about glorifying God, not about how many people you can get to attend.
Treating visitors as though they are genuinely welcome is one of the many ways to extend the love God has shown you to others. Visitors may be brothers and sisters in Christ, so they should be treated as family. Visitors may also be coming to learn about how to become more connected to God and His plan for salvation. How you treat them will not only determine whether they will return to your church, but whether they will even choose to continue their quest to learn about God's teachings.
Hebrews 13:2 sums it up. Visitors should be treated as if they are God's angels sent from heaven to see how the church is doing. This brings up another point. What if Jesus visited the church but you didn't recognize Him? Would He be treated well and feel welcomed?
Fortunately, there are some ways to make visitors feel more welcome in your church. There are simple things the church can implement and other things each individual can do to ensure that visitors feel welcomed.
Have one to two people at each entrance door. Have the door greeter be knowledgeable about where various classes are for all age groups or at least be able to point them in the direction of someone who will know exactly where they need to go. This is also a good time to pass out any daily or weekly flyers with plenty of information about activities and events throughout the church. Not only will the door greeters be good to welcome visitors, but members will continue to feel welcome as well.
A Few Do's and Don'ts For Door Greeters:
- Be friendly but not overly friendly.
- Be attentive.
- No cell phones or other electronic devices.
- Keep conversations with other greeters to a minimum to ensure you do not ignore or miss members and visitors coming through the door. Abruptly stop conversation with another greeter to welcome people coming through the door. Your priority is welcoming everyone coming through the doors at your church.
- Greet everyone equally.
- Do not assume because you do not know someone that they are a visitor.
- Introduce yourself and try to shake everyone's hand.
- Do not be judgmental.
- Have 2-3 door greeters at each door to allow a greeter to escort visitors personally to the visitor center or show them in person where they need to go instead of giving verbal directions.
Do you think churches do a good job of making visitors feel welcome?
Having a visitor center, especially on Sundays, is another crucial step to helping visitors feel more at ease with your church. Have a few friendly church members handy at the visitor centers. Do not just tell the visitor where they should go, personally take them yourself. Although the church's floor plan may seem simple to you, to a visitor it can be an added stress trying to navigate through the unfamiliar halls. Another reason why it is good to escort the visitor is it adds a personal touch and makes them feel as though their visit is important to you.
Have a Host/Hostess
Once you have escorted the visitor to where they need to go, have someone in the class continue to make the visitor feel welcome. Introduce the person to others. Invite the visitor to sit with you not only in the class but in services as well. Keep in mind that you shouldn't hover over the person, but be available to them the whole duration of their visit.
Another way to help visitors is to wear name tags. Visiting a church can be overwhelming at times. Trying to remember each person's name is probably not the first thing on the visitor's mind. It is helpful if the welcoming committee, such as door greeters or volunteers at the visitor's center, would wear name tags. Although you don't normally see name tags worn during service times, having them on during class time is helpful to visitors.
Show Genuine Interest
Showing interest that is sincere will go a long way. Ask questions to get to know the visitor, but don't interrogate them. Keep a lookout for cues of feeling uneasy. Some visitors are an open book, whereas others prefer to remain private, at least until they get to know a person.
Try to keep questions basic. Perhaps start off with questions such as "Are you new to town?" or "What do you do for a living?" Basically, ask questions to show interest, but do not be too intrusive.
Plan fellowship activities that are focused on visitors getting to know the rest of the congregation and what your church has to offer. This could be a simple coffee and snacks after church to a pot-luck luncheon where members bring food. If it isn't feasible to do this every week, at least consider doing it once a month or every other week. Also be sure to invite the visitor to any upcoming church events.
Don't Let Visitors Sit Alone
Another thing to keep in mind is never let a visitor sit alone. It isn't because they can't be trusted; it is because visitors who feel left out probably won't return. This goes for members as well. If you are a part of a larger church, you may not know every member. Don't automatically assume someone is a guest. If you see someone sitting alone simply sit with them and ask, "I'm sorry, I can't remember; have we met? My name is ...;" while offering them a handshake. This also gives a visitor a feeling of belonging as if you thought they were members, and, if they are a member, you have made him or her feel welcome as well.
Always do a follow-up with visitors. At the time of their visitation, have them fill out a visitor card with their name, address, and phone number. Have someone from the church call them later in the week and let them know how much you enjoyed their visit. Also, address any questions they may have.
While you have the person on the phone, see if you can set up a time that would be good for you to visit. Never show up unannounced. Not only is this rude, it may be an inconvenient time for the visitor. You don't want the church to come off as pushy. You want the church to be an inviting, welcoming place. As a member of the church, you are an extension of the church.
These are just some basic ideas to welcome visitors to your church. Remember to be friendly and outgoing but not overbearing or intrusive. Also, remember that any church member can make a visitor feel welcome, so become your own welcoming committee. Keep in mind that if a visitor continues to visit the church and joins the congregation, still continue to make them feel welcome.
"Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God." Romans 15:7 (NRSV)
© 2015 L Sarhan