Archive for ◊ June, 2015 ◊

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• Thursday, June 04th, 2015

Encore Blog:

Business networking groups have mastered making guests feel welcome. Anyone who has ever attended one of these groups knows that a core rule of networking is reaching out to visitors. You see someone standing alone and you get right over and talk to that person. In business, a visitor may become a client….

At church, a visitor may become a new member.

Often church members forget about reaching out to visitors. Oh, sure someone walks in for the first time and members believe they are welcoming. “Hello.” “Glad You’re Here.” But those welcomes can ring false if the visitor is greeted at the door and then ignored (except for the many eyes cast that way and the obvious speculation as to who this “stranger” may be).

Right now, you’re probably saying “No, our church is very friendly.” But feeling welcomed in a new place is more than a few words, it’s a culture. And many churches, with their long-time cliques and favorite seating arrangements, are much less welcoming than members might realize.

I was at church the other day and saw a visitor standing alone while several church members stood chatting, waiting for the service to begin. Presumably they had welcomed (or at least smiled at) the guest, but felt their church business took precedence over the comfort of a stranger in their midst.

Although many churches have greeters, that doesn’t mean that you as a church member can ignore a newcomer. Indeed, if there are several visitors, your rank of greeters may be stretched too thin. Step up to the role of welcoming people to your service.

Welcome To My Church #101
• Put yourself in the visitor’s place. Imagine how you would feel if you were visiting a new church and didn’t know anyone.
• Extend a genuine welcome – with a smile.
• Ask the visitor’s name. And give your own. First names only are fine.
• Ask a few friendly (versus nosey) questions:
Are you from this area?
What brought you to our church?
• Share a little about yourself and your role at the church
• Talk about your church and the service
• If possible, introduce the visitor to the pastor.
• Introduce the visitor, by name, to others. If the visitor has something in common with a member (like where they come from), include that in the introduction.
• If there are small children, point out the nursery. If older children, explain the Sunday School options.
• If it feels appropriate, offer to sit with the visitor.

After church
• Be sure the visitor knows where the fellowship hall is located.
• During fellowship, share information about church activities and invite the visitor to check them out.
• Invite the visitor to return, but casually (not out of desperation to increase membership rolls or add to a committee).

Admittedly, some visitors prefer to visit a new church under the radar. If you sense that a guest wants to be anonymous, back off. Be welcoming, but don’t smother.

Whether at a networking group or visiting a new church, a visitor’s decision to return is based on how he or she is treated by the members of the group. And you – as a member of your church – can make a lot of difference with your awareness, empathy and kindness.