9 crystal clear ways to welcome church visitors

In this next post in my series on how to grow a healthy church I am focusing on the pathway you need to  must create if you hope to assimilate  new people successfully into your church.

Now here’s a book that highlights the power of such a pathway.

Mark Waltz‘s book How to Wow Your Church Guests: 101 Ways to Make a Meaningful First Impression (affiliate link) gives practical, down to earth & proven advice on how to help new people connect to your church.

Here’s an interesting observation in today’s wired world. People already have a first impression about your church well before they have visited a service. And they got that from your web site.

So in our church we consider the first contact point with a visitor is our web site which has a special section for visitors. It’s the first point in a number of contact points we have created to help people journey into our church. Here’s the rest.

  1. Clearly signed car parking spots for visitors
  2. Outside greeters
  3. Indoor greeters
  4. Welcome in service with an invite to visitor lounge
  5. Visitor lounge with free coffee, tasty treats & trained volunteers located in our foyer in the high traffic area – no out of the way back rooms
  6. Followup letter & phone call by Tuesday evening
  7. New People morning tea – a post morning service meet & greet with our pastors & board
  8. About Us – an in depth look at who we are, our vision & values which is held during a morning service

Now all of this process is under girded by a high level commitment to friendliness & is also monitored carefully by a leader who loves people & loves to watch our church grow.

I’ve noticed some churches are now offering a Guest Experience in which you can book ahead & be met by a team member – love it!

So what do you do if you don’t have any pathway for new people in your church?

My advice is get Mark Waltz’s book. Devour it. Give it to someone in your church with the gift of hospitality which literally is the love of strangers. Launch! And thus grow a healthy church.

Check out my other posts on how to grow a healthy church.

And if we can help you grow a healthy church contact us today.

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Comments

  1. Rohan Bell says

    Thats a great book John. Good reccommendation I read it just a couple of weeks ago as well. I also read ‘It’ by Craig Groeschel which has some inspiring thoughts along the same line.

  2. Mike Groves says

    John, as recipients of these nine ways to welcome visitors I can confirm that your church (our church) lives this out. Our welcome to C3HH was excellent and, more importantly, real.

  3. says

    Having lived in Australia for 55 years and been through the Church ‘scene’ for over 25 years I would have to suggest that greeting people both inside and out has a very high level of discomfort and disconnection to the uninitiated Aussie. I spent many, many years in various Churches finishing with Riverview. One of my concerns is the inability for Church ‘people’ to be able to recognize the discomfort level cause by an obsession to force people to do what does not come naturally, IE meet and greet. While the premise is sound in theory, it doesn’t take into account the Aussie Psyche, which literally squirms at such a transparent forcing of friendships. Aussie are the most cynical of all people on this earth and are less open to Christians than just about anyone I can imagine and yet the Church still tries to win them over with a over zealous, Oprah Winfrey style representation of God that (like me) keeps more people away from God than it attracts. It kept me away for years because quite simply, I used to look at over the top Christians and think “Why would I want to be like you”. Aussies are smarter than that. Running a Church that has ‘more appeal’ is not the answer and the 8 points above do little to address the ongoing unawareness and disconnection of most of not all modern churches.. Being real is something the Church is yet to understand, realize or achieve. I’m not having a go at the cheerful people who greet us at the door with a big smile and a handshake. What they do is fine if you know them and what they’ve gone through to get to that stage. If, however, you’ve never met them, one can’t help but wonder what on earth would posses someone to act so strangely … especially to someone they’ve never met. The Church needs to think about what they’re doing from the ‘new’ persons perspective instead of trying to be better than all the other Churches. Sadly I don’t think they know how.

    • John says

      I don’t know where to start on a critique filled with such hyperbole. I assuming it’s hyperbole because … anyway as I said I don’t know where to start.

      So Peter – please offer a doable alternative. And without the hyperbole thanks!

  4. Peter says

    John, What I wrote can only be called hyperbole if you’re privy to the same experiences over the past 25 years as me both in and out of the Church scene. So, you may choose to read what I’ve written as hyperbole and simply dismiss my experiences, missing the point completely, or you may want to read it for what it is.

  5. Peter says

    Hi John. Low key without all the razzmatazz to reflect our culture. Australia’s Church style is very much the American model and as we all know we are very different in the way we do most things; Church should be no different. The over the top Oprah style does not sit comfortable with most of us and yet that’s what the modern Church experience is like.
    To make it more accessible I would make it very low key and simple. There’s nowhere that says it has to be done a certain way, so it really should reflect our Aussie culture. Riverview do an amazing job with The Bloke, even to the point of having a beer on arrival the night I went. For those who don’t know what The Bloke is, it’s a night for blokes only, with hot cars on display, live music, golf putting, footy stuff and everything blokey. Serving beer in a Church is the bravest move I’ve ever seen the Church do and should be applauded. As you can imagine it’s not without it’s critics. Does anyone think God would really care if they served beer? However, they let themselves down by ending the night with a thinly disguised preach and then an alter call. Do they not realize that most people can see right through the lure. Why does it have to be done at all? Let the people go away thinking how similar it was to their own lifestyle and how nonthreatening it was. They are then likely to return.

    Saving people is not a numbers game. I’ve witnessed pastors clearly disappointed if no one puts up their hands after the call, as if they’ve somehow failed. They try desperately to get people across the line. That is the human ego acting out of a need to be successful, even at getting people saved.

    Keep it Aussie … keep it simple … keep it real. When we attend a mates BBQ or party we don’t rush up to them like seeing them is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. Imagine how out of place that would seem to everyone, especially the person being greeted. Sometimes our friends just wander around the back and most times we just say gidday on their arrival. We might shake hands or hug. But these people are our friends, people we know, not complete strangers like meet and greet. My biggest concern is how much are long term Churched people missing if they can’t see and feel how uncomfortable people are when it’s the old meet and greet time inside and on arrival. Even most long term Church goers cringe and yet the pastors and leaders seem oblivious. Either that or they do see it but still think it’s a good idea. Either way there’s a problem and this is a great opportunity to ask yourselves just how much are you NOT seeing?

  6. John says

    OK I like this Peter, keep it simple, keep it real.

    I don’t want to assume how you would achieve this so can you elaborate on how you would lead a church into doing this?

  7. Peter says

    Ok John … where to start. I think it’s something that can’t be explained in a blog without writing 5,000 words and that’s just not practical, but I’ll do my best in a lot less than that..

    I’m not sure if it’s ever been done in Oz before, or if it has, to what extent, but I would suggest market research. The best way to find out what people want is to ask them. I might be 100% off the mark with the low key Aussie thing. In business marketing terms, the best way to sell a product is to ask people what they want and give it to them. And no I’m not calling God a product. I’m talking about appeal. The main reason businesses fail is because of a lack of research or knowledge about the market they’re in. People create a product or on-sell someone else’s product hoping there is a market for it. The right way to do it is to find out what people want and give it to them. How does the Church market itself?

    If there is a need for your product and if you run your business right, ie tell everyone you exist, there’s a very good chance you’ll be successful. If you don’t, the likelihood is that you will fail. Attracting people to God when they’ve been exposed to so many alternatives is the key to the Churches success in the future. By the way, I’m not by any means suggesting that the Churches success should be measured by how many people it has on any weekend. I do however, think that we, as Christians are responsible to give people an opportunity to further their spiritual pursuit in a way that best reflects who God is and that is something we fail miserably at. For the most part Aussies see Christians as straight, conservative, dull, boring, tame, overly nice, unattached, unimaginative, self righteous, arrogant, teetotalerring do-gooders. None of these reflect the character of Jesus and it stuns me think how wrong we have got it in the way we portray him. Jesus drank wine, through stuff around, went of his nut, got in peoples faces and told it as it was. Sure he’s also very loving and soft, but clearly in the Bible he was not like that 24×7, but that’s the bit we’ve latched on to. We sadly portray him as a meek, quiet, submissive, overly nice, weak man. we can’t even get right what our leader is like. The Church merely reflects our inability to grasp that.

    When there’s a comedian having a dig at Christians that’s how we’re portrayed. And you know what? From what they’ve witnessed they’re pretty well spot on. I made up a saying in my early days of being a Christian and it is this. If there weren’t so many Christians around, there’d be a lot more Christians around. I honestly believe Christians by and large are so detached from the real world that it’s embarrassing. The modern Church reflects that. Zig Ziglar once said that he asked his friend to come to his church. The friend replied; “I ain’t going to Church Zig … it’s full of hypocrites, liars, cheats, dishonesty and judgmental people”. To which Zig replied; “That’s ok … there’s always room for one more”. And yet we are obsessed with the squeaky clean image that we think is what being a Christian is all about.

    So let’s find out what people want from the Church. It’s clear they don’t have a problem with God or the person of Jesus. So, what’s their problem with Christianity? Us

  8. John says

    I think market research would be an excellent idea.

    The difficulty most pastors face is the cost of the research.

    Quite possibly it’s been done & pastors are not aware of it because they are busy with their heads down & tails up involved in grass roots pastoring. I think I will follow this up & see what’s around.

    Thanks Peter.

  9. Peter says

    Hi John, it’s been a while. Just giving some more thought on your last post re market research.

    If it’s not financially viable to conduct extensive market research but it’s glowingly obvious that there’s issues to be addressed, what about if we look at the disconnection factors between the church and Aussies? There are many and varied, most of which I’ve already written about previously. In a nutshell, I think that the people have failed to connect with the Church because the Church has failed to connect with them. By reducing the disconnection issue, it (the Church) will go a long way to breaking down the stereotypes seen in the modern church.

    As I’ve also mentioned before, it’s all about being real so that Aussies can find some common ground that they can relate to. The way it is at the moment it would equate to going to live on another planet with a new race of people that are very different for all the wrong reasons.

    In my extensive experience in many and varied churches there is little if any common ground. Research shows that most Aussies don’t have a problem with God, it’s his fan club they can’t stand. Surely that should be of grave concern to the Church and yet, what is being done about it? Changing it from the inside is only part of the solution. I don’t think the Church today by and large reflects the character of Christ nor would he understand why in this country we have chosen to teach the believers that to become a Christian means entering radical Christendom and disconnecting yourself from the world we share. Most church goers have given up the ability to think for themselves and simply act out what they’re told. By the way, I don’t think that’s the fault of the leaders. People are lazy and it just seems easier to act out what someone else says, particularly if their a charismatic leader. We love idolizing people who seem to have what we don’t. Most Christians think that pastors prayers are somehow better than ours for example. I know I thought that of you.

    Most Christians I’m sure would be mortified with most of what I’ve written here. But until you’ve stood on the outside and looked in, you simply can’t see it. It’s the same with any obsession/addiction people have. You can’t see it until you’re no longer it it.The extreme (but not uncommon) example of this disconnection factor is Christians who are so caught up in Christianity that they’ve failed to connect with either the real world or the Christian world at large.They range from radical weirdos yelling at people in the Hay street mall to parents disowning their children because they don’t share their faith. Fundamentalism is dangerous in any form.

    I admire your desire to grow a healthy Church John and I’m sure you’ll make a difference to the current converts. But, will it make a difference to those searching for some ‘real’ meaning in their lives? Will they even investigate God after what they see and hear from Christians. If their only exposure to Christianity is the flamboyant, extremely wealthy, over the top Oprah style preachers from around the world they see on tv, what hope do they have? Shouldn’t they at least see a real depiction of Jesus from an Aussie church?

    Our only solution is to start to change the way in which Aussies see us. Everyone is very comfortable talking about the Dalai Lama, Buddha, and a handful of other spiritual leaders, but try talking about Jesus and watch the conversation change quickly.

    I wish it wasn’t so, but if I wanted to show someone I knew who was interested in God/Jesus, the last place I would take them would be to church. That’s sad, but true. And please believe me John, I’m not condemning you for what you do. I’m talking about the church in general. You are understandably a product of your life in the church.

    I fail to see how what happens in church in any way represents what coming to know Jesus is about. Aussies are so freaked out about what they have to become and do to be in the slightest bit willing to give up what they have to become what they perceive is some weirdo. You can love the teachings of the Dalai Lama without having to be made to feel uncomfortable in a church doing strange things. But the package you’re given when you become a Christian incorporates a whole bunch of really strange things.

    More on that later …

    • Peter says

      It is an interesting article written from a entrenched churched persons perspective which of course is very different to what I’m talking about. Any feedback, comments etc on the above John?

  10. John says

    “Our only solution is to start to change the way in which Aussies see us.”

    True.

    How can we do this Peter?

  11. says

    Hi John. A question unrelated to the above. I’m intrigued by the term ‘Healthy Church’. When you use that term ‘healthy church ‘what exactly do you mean, as the inference is that your affiliated church or the Church as in the body is unhealthy and if so in what way? Cheers.

    • John says

      Simply put Peter …

      A local church can get unhealthy just as body of people e.g. a community/city/school/business/social group/family can get unhealthy in multiple ways – physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally etc etc

      We come alongside pastors & help them diagnose their churches current health state & look for some ways to improved health.

      That’s it in a nutshell.

  12. says

    A doorknock was held in our locality and the feed back was as follows. We have a good name in our community as many know someone who attends the church. Most however believe that we are too American and are after their money. Its a big call being all things to all people as people and their circumstances vary so much. I think just being aware that we need to keep it real and not push for money would help.

  13. says

    The doorknock did show us that people do hold their own views tightly. Our communities do not suffer through a lack of knowledge so I guess the focus in the assimilation of people is not knowledge but real connection. If you can establish connection then the impartation of knowledge will take place at a rate the particular person can digest it. I find that although people have a pretty good idea about Christianity (that’s a generalization) most people who come to church have real relational needs and alot of them would be lacking support so that’s my main aim. If you have large numbers of new converts you must try to show them the pathway (next step) as a group. I’m not sure if doing that makes it American?

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