A Welcoming Church 3

Ten Commandments – Front Line Welcoming

  1. You get one chance to make a first impression – so make it a good one.
  2. Visitors are honoured guests – so they should get VIP treatment. They are not intruders – they are an opportunity for us to express Christ’s love.
  3. Remember the environment and the people are all strange to them. Visitors may feel apprehensive, especially getting morning tea after the service.
  4. Members must go out of their way to speak to visitors, be prepared to chat for some time. Look after them introduce them around. Don’t leave them stranded. Hi and good bye are simply not enough.
  5. Take the newcomer at their pace. Don’t embarrass them, don’t be pushy – be warm and friendly but let them enter the community at their own pace – fast or slow.
  6. Wear a nametag – they don’t know and won’t remember your name. Does your church have a system where you can quickly generate a name tag for the visitor? Should do and it should look the same as everyone elses.
  7. Generally people want to meet the minister – so create an opportunity after the service and introduce them. If there is time before the service and the minister obviously has time (not always true) then before is OK too. However don’t introduce and leave – you have become their new best friend for the day – stick around or arrange someone who can.
  8. The minister is one person and cannot do it all – even ½ is beyond him or her. They will have lots of people wanting to have a chat and pass on news.
  9. A warm welcome is stage one only. To incorporate the newcomer takes time and energy.
  10. People visit churches for all sorts of reasons – but they stay mainly for one – relationships.

What to say after you say “hello”?

  • People like to talk about special interests.  The BIG clue is to ask questions that call for more than a simple “yes” or “no” response – you want to get them talking rather than answering questions.
  • Invent your own interest style, taking care not to pry and always being alert that some people have hurts – a recent death, divorce, depression – that make them vulnerable. How you listen and show interest is important.
  • Learn by heart a couple of special questions that you find helpful.

People often like to talk about

  1. Their family, their children or their children’s school – “I noticed you had a couple of kids with you this morning…? – Where do they go to school, what are their names, what grades are they in, how do they enjoy school, what sports do they play…?”
  2. The street they live in and how long – “How long have you lived in … street?”
  3. Why they chose your particular Church – “It was great you could join us this morning – how did you find out about the church?”
  4. A special interest? – “I noticed you had a Bulldogs jersey – are you into football?”
  5. Pets and pet topics (theirs not yours)
  6. Some major world event – but avoid the gory and the political – Try “The … disaster was sad for everyone?” or “How will the world cope with these major oil spills?” or “Have you been watching the cricket… Rugby World Cup… Olympic Games…

Things to Avoid

  1. “Are you new here?” You’re bound to get someone who has been coming for years but is not overly active in the church – and in my experience they will get offended! Better to say, “I don’t think we know each other?” or “I don’t think we’ve met before – my name is…”. And don’t do what I did once – said that to the same person at three separate meetings over 4 months! Oops. Pay attention.
  2. “Who are you?’  This is blunt and often means “What do you do?” Job questions are better kept for further into a conversation – and the reality is we probably don’t really care what they do yet – when we get to know them we might but early on it’s a copout conversation piece.
  3. Leaving people in the lurch – if you’ve welcomed them make sure they have people to talk to, food in their hands and a cuppa. If no one else is available to talk then you’re on deck. And don’t cut and run. Once you’ve introduced them, keep watch, rescue them if need be, rescue others if need be. If they get involved in a conversation that’s obviously fine, but they are just getting a feel for the place so help them get around a little and when you leave come back.
  4. A question that is not from the heart. Ask, showing you want to listen. People can generally pick a phoney a mile away – except for real estate agents and car salesmen. So ask questions that you are willing to listen to the answer to – and then listen. Don’t listen with an ear to what you’re going to say, or trying to hear what your friends are saying – listen with your ears and eyes… with your attention firmly focussed on them. Be attentive!
  5. The quick talk to just do your duty.
  6. Quickly moving to animated and lively interaction with close friends. Rather – introduce your new contact to your circle and continue to make him/her feel comfortable. You can ring your friends later, have a meal with them and catch up – and most visitors won’t stick around for hours anyway. Spend 15 minutes in their company and unless you’re a fruit loop in all likelihood they will return next week – because they connected with a human who cared.
  7. The uncomfortable – allow space and personal differences – if they express opinions that differ to yours does it really matter. Even theological issues don’t all have to be resolved within the first 5 minutes. If they are a non-Christian then it’s not their differing theology that matters – it’s their stand against God that matters – we can deal with the other things later.


  1. Leave the conversation with a bright note and if possible connect him/her to another face, another ministry, or another interest.
  2. Leave a latch, a key to further interaction
    • “See you next week?” Await a response!
    • “Can I phone you?”  Take the phone number
  3. If they have an interest in something particular; “Bob Jones can help you here. How about I introduce you to him – or I could get him to give you a call in the next couple of weeks?” Get an address and/or phone number if at ease.
  4. Be committed to follow up. If you say you will then do what you say.

Caution: Genuine interest in new faces is the crucial missing ingredient in many churches. Will you be genuine?

Always talk to a new face or someone you don’t know well before linking up with your friends.

Some Final Ideas

1.            Generosity is the key.

  • You really want to involve this new face in your church, your life, and your circle of friends.
  • You want to share yourself and your friends.
    • You don’t? Leave welcoming to someone else.

2.            Take the initiative.

  • Newcomers need to be welcomed on the spot with a smile and an outstretched hand – “Good to see you here.”
  • Give that person the V.I.P. Treatment and remember to smile at regulars.
  • Ever felt left out? Initiative is often the quickest cure. You can be a self-starter.

3.            Listen.

  • Answer questions asked directly.
  • Observe the body language.
  • Accept the person just as he or she is.
  • Learn some starter questions and give the newcomer the opportunity to talk.
  • Your prompts are best taken from your interest in what the newcomer is saying.
  • Three wise words  “Listen, Listen, Listen.”

4.            Assume nothing.

  • “If you ASSUME… you may make an ASS of U and ME.”
  • Your newcomer could be the most important new face in your church God has sent this year – so don’t assume someone else will say hello. Don’t assume the person wants to be alone – they’ve come to church for friendship and welcome as much as for God’s word. If they are a non-Christian they may not know why they are here.
  • He/she needs your care

Some Final Hints

People basically like people.
People like to be liked.
People matter to God.
Be creative and a listener to the visitor.
Know what your church offers.

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