It can be confusing if you’re new to the community and don’t know anyone to get a reference from. If you have someone you trust to get a recommendation from, at least you anticipate some sense of comfort at the place they suggested. And still . . . .
- It might be scary even with a recommendation because there is still the unknown to face. The unknown raises a person’s anxiety because . . . it’s unknown. I think that’s pretty self-explanatory.
- It’s almost always awkward because it’s a new situation. Any new place or situation has an awkwardness to it because you don’t know what to expect. A first Weight Watcher’s Meeting, a first visit to the new doctor’s office, the first time you take your son or daughter to a Scout meeting . . . name a group that’s new for you and it’s awkward to visit the first time. People turn and stare. You’re not sure where it’s O.K. to sit. Will you follow the correct protocol? Awkward!
So, what do you do to make a guest in your church comfortable? I’ve heard guests following a visit to a worship service complain that nobody spoke to them. How awkward does that make them feel?
On the other hand, I understand that when churches have their welcome time in the worship service, some people feel embarrassed that they get more attention than they’re comfortable with. They feel swamped with well wishers. Typically, studies have indicated that young adults don’t want to fill out a “visitor’s card” with their information. They don’t want to be “harassed” by visitors calling at their door and/or interrupting their evening.
How can you minister to people who hold such varied opinions? People who desire two completely different approaches from church? The truth is, you can’t! Not for everybody. On the other hand, there is also the real possibility of ministering in a way that might not meet the needs of the extremes, but does meet the needs of many people. Consider your church’s personality and what direction all involved want to go in reaching the unchurched in the community. Design your approach to tap in to those who are more likely to enjoy your church’s style.
Know where you want to go and tailor your method of helping guests feel welcome in a way that’s acceptable for them. This will make it possible to connect with them and them with you.
The important aspect to keep in mind is that your church has to make the effort to connect and help newcomers feel welcome.
- Remember the Seven Touches principle. Visitors to your church need to have seven personal greetings as they first arrive at the church. This helps them know they’re noticed and welcome. Seven different greetings from seven different individuals or couples, just saying, “Hi,” or, “Good morning!” (evening, afternoon, as appropriate). What a nice welcome!
- Scoot over to make room where you’re sitting, if possible, or move to another place yourself, offering your place for guests.
- Help educate friends and others in your church to be courteous and helpful to those they don’g recognize. It’s good for visitors and it’s good for regular attenders. If you don’t recognize someone, say, “Hello,” and introduce yourself. It fosters a close fellowship that is an obvious energy.
- Be enthusiastic about the good things that happen. Everything done in the church may not be especially agreeable for any one person. Being enthusiastic instead of negative and sour is attractive, regardless of insignificant issues.
- Be genuine in greeting those you don’t know, as well as old acquaintances. A quick, polite greeting to get it over with so you can move on to what you would rather be doing isn’t helpful in attracting guests.
- Celebrate Christ’s presence in worship and fellowship. The collective enjoyment of God’s presence is contagious. It’s inviting in and of itself.
“Nobody spoke to me!”? No excuse for that! Your church needs to begin a campaign to educate, remind and encourage every church member to be a greeting committee of one that is a part of the whole. Generate an atmosphere that is inviting for guests. Be the kind of church that people talk about because they feel welcome without fear of being overwhelmed.
At a dead end for getting your church off of the doldrums? Call me for help in ministering with greater effectiveness and reaching out in your community. I’m at 225-773-8883, or if you enjoy the tech approach, contact me on the “About” page or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.