By Tuesday, pastors and lay leaders have put last Sunday in the rear-view mirror and are thinking and planning for next Sunday. The thing about Sunday is that it always comes and there are no re-runs. Many are looking at visiting a church, perhaps your church, this Sunday. Welcoming these guests isn’t as simple as opening the doors. Are you ready to receive them this week?
Follow Up with Last Week’s Visitors
You’ve gone to great lengths to know who is visiting, obtaining an email or physical address; maybe even a phone number. Make sure you follow up with them, preferably a personal note from the Senior Pastor. It was the first thing I did on Monday morning, sometimes even on Sunday evening if I had the energy. I would send an email or a physical note if we had their address. It was a simple thank you for being a part of worship on that day, we hope to see you again soon, and please let me know if you had any questions. Yes, it’s also okay to send a stock letter, but the personal note from the Pastor is even better. You cannot ask for information, have people give it, and then not follow up with them. If you have no intention of following up, then don’t ask for information.
Walk Your Building
The more you are in a place, the more familiar you become. You forget how space felt when you first saw it. It’s a great idea to take some of your staff and lay leaders and walk through your building with the perspective of a first-time visitor. A couple of questions to consider:
Is it easy to find the right doors to enter from the outside?
Are places such as the restrooms, nursery, children’s spaces, sanctuary marked clearly with directional signs and signs over the appropriate rooms?
Do we publicly call rooms what they are labeled? For example, if your fellowship hall is called Smith Hall, is that what you publicly call it?
Is your building accessible to all? Easy or difficult to navigate?
As a bonus, go outside and walk through your parking lot. Is there appropriate signage in the parking lot which points to building entrances and major locations within the building? You would be surprised at how easy it is to get lost and turned around in your parking lot, especially when preparing to enter a building full of strangers.
Review Your Worship Bulletin
We put a lot of insider language in our worship bulletins. Sometimes you will find it in the order of service, but it’s most prevalent in our announcements and what is happening at the church. There is either too much information, unclear information, or not enough information. Pick three or four events/ministries that the whole church needs to know about while also giving visitors a good idea of the mission and vision of your church. It’s a signal to those unfamiliar with your church what you value as a community. If you have a welcome statement or if your congregation is Open and Affirming, make sure that is visible in your bulletin. A visitor is asking the question “what kind of church is this?”
Also, let people know who is participating in the worship service and how they serve the church. It helps people to put a face with a name. The first time I speak in the worship service, I introduce myself and share the role I serve at the church. Don’t assume anyone knows anything.
Examine Your Worship Service
As you examine or de-brief your worship service, look for insider language. If you make announcements in worship, limit these to three or four that will impact the whole community. Make sure you don’t say things like, “if you are interested, please see Fred.” Those new to your church do not know Fred. Much to Fred’s dismay, people who have been there a long time may not know Fred. Be clear about how people can get involved and why they should. Think of these as opportunities for people to become further involved in your church. Please do not ask visitors to stand up or even worse, to introduce themselves.
These are just four examples of actions clergy and lay leaders can take now to be more welcoming during your worship services. Our welcome is an extension of God’s wide welcome.