Though not exhaustive, these seven signs of unfriendliness are usually deadly to the possibility of guests returning or connecting to your church.
1. No (or unclear) directional signs inside or outside your facility
Unfortunately, familiarity often breeds contempt for strangers. Once we know the ropes we forget about those who don’t and it becomes every man, woman, and child for themselves. Put yourself in the place of a first-time guest and ask; “Do I know which door to enter?” (What if that door leads to the choir loft, or the front of the worship service? What if it opens into the Pastor’s study? Or maybe its locked and I’ll make a fool of myself.) “Do I know where the childcare or classes are located? Where are the restrooms? Etc.
2. No greeters other than someone handing out bulletins.
Strategically placed greeters not only say “hello,” but their presence communicates to guests that they are special and you’ve been expecting them. A smiling face, a warm handshake, and a helping hand are hallmarks of a friendly church. Many churches place greeters in the parking lot, at the entrances, in the classrooms, and worship area. They not only welcome folks but also are available to walk people to where they need to go. (By the way, even regular attendees appreciate a friendly greeting.) Can’t find anyone in the church with a friendly disposition willing to greet guests?…Well, that may be another deadly sign.
3. No information about your church is readily available.
A greeter armed with brochures, or a wecome station stocked with newsletters, info cards, and Sunday School/small group information, and other opportunities to plug in or get connected is extremely valuable. It tells your guests who you are, what you’re about, and that you’d like them to be a part too.
4. No one introduces himself or herself to, or welcomes the guest(s).
You’re probably thinking that this never happens. That’s probably because you haven’t attended any churches other than your own lately. Check out the friendliness quotient of your church by enlisting a non-attendee to show up some Sunday and give you honest feedback (A kind of “mystery shopper”).
5. No one extends an invitation to lunch or to return next week.
People will connect to your church through relationships. If they can’t relate they won’t return. You will need to overcome your discomfort to make them comfortable. You will need to make others part of your life if you want them to be part of God’s kingdom. Hospitality may be the church’s most under utilized gift.
6. No general word of welcome is offered from the pulpit/platform.
What is said from the platform can make a big difference in how one feels from the pew. How the welcome is extended is critical. Normally, its not wise to call guests by name, have them stand, or stand in their honor (while they are seated). You don’t want to embarrass them in any way. In today’s culture people seek a degree of anonymity, yet don’t want to be totally ignored. Find a balance that works in your setting. Use the term “guest” rather than “visitor” and simply thank them for coming. Have registration material available in the pews/chairs and encourage them to fill it out and place in the offering. Bulletin tear-offs work well for this and can be used by everyone present to allow for prayer concerns, decisions, and other requests. A bonus would be a time and place after the service for guests to meet with the pastor and have refreshments.
7. No follow up within 48 hours of guests attending.
You have a two-day window to make a positive impression after someone attends your church. After that the possibilities of their connecting with your ministry are dramatically reduced. Send a letter, a card, an e-mail, or make a phone call to say thank you, invite them back, offer assistance, etc. In some cases a brief drop-by to leave literature or a gift is appropriate (hint: keep the car motor running and the car door open to signal the brevity of your stay). Also, if the contact person is someone other than the Pastor it is of more value. Sorry, but a non-clergy contact is often considered more genuine.