Welcoming visitors to church can feel like a no-brainer. Just be friendly, right? I’ve worked in churches for over ten years. And all of that time was spent building ministries and communities from the ground up. And I went to seminary, where you sit around talking about this stuff. Welcoming visitors to church effectively takes a good deal of forethought and a multi-faceted approach. During the holidays more visitors come through the doors of the church. It’s a great time to begin welcoming them with greater intention. We hope our ideas help to create a culture of welcome and hospitality within your community this season and throughout the year.
Welcoming Visitors to Church During Worship
Make info easily available on Sundays. Make it easy for people to find information about the church. In a beautiful and consistently branded way, make it simple for people to understand how to get connected. Make the website obvious in slides and on marketing materials. Perhaps place a welcome booth at the entrance to the sanctuary. Alternatively, create a kiosk with flyers for each ministry.
Provide something for people to do. Visitors heading to a new church often carry with them some anxiety. And looking new with nothing to do can make that even worse. One way this is solved is having paper bulletins available during worship; reading it offers them a way to fill their time before worship. Additionally, having a coloring poster or coloring sheets out makes for a great activity.
Have name tags. On a table near the entrance to the sanctuary, set out name tags and markers. Calling each other by name creates a sense of community and belonging. This helps visitors as well as those who’ve been in the pew for decades.
Provide information for biblical passages. When reading scripture, describe where the text is located in the Bible. Additionally, give context for the passage. Consequently, people are more likely to feel there isn’t insider knowledge they don’t have. This is helpful for all of us, whether new or long-time members.
Welcoming Visitors to Church through Relationships
Plan a January event. Give visitors a reason to return to the church after the holidays. Make this an event that doesn’t require any responsibility from those who may be new. For example, plan a soup and bread night. Or perhaps do a service project. Alternatively, host a pub theology night at a local brewery or family play date at a neighborhood park. Providing childcare for some of these events is a must to remove a common barrier for families.
Leaders, introduce yourselves up front. Have those who are up front speaking on Sunday give their name and role in the church. This helps visitors get to know who’s who. And it makes getting involved easier for them.
Say hello, Pastor. A pastor saying hello can help a visitor feel important. If a greeting from the pastor isn’t possible, create a team of leaders who will keep an eye out for those who are new. Say hello, tell them you’re happy they came. And tell them to feel free to find you if they have any questions.
Train children’s ministry leaders. Often parents feel frazzled when they arrive at church. Whether volunteers or staff, make sure to train nursery and Sunday school leaders to be patient and friendly. Specifically, remember children’s names and what they like, even if it means taking note to reference. Furthermore, if parents drop their kids off, try having coffee and tasty treats available at the sign-in table. Small efforts go a long way.
Welcoming Visitors to Church on Sundays and Beyond
Make clear what your church stands for. Put in writing what your mission statement is and how your church includes the marginalized. This is important in order for all of us to feel safe and know if we’re a part of the faith family.
Have a plan. Decide what to do the first three times a person visits your church. For example, take a loaf of bread with a note to the visitor’s home. Include the website and pastor’s phone number. Then, have the pastor call and invite them out for coffee or lunch. Next, have someone in their neighborhood invite them to check out their small group. This follow-up makes a big difference and rarely happens at churches.
Be present online. Keep the church’s website up to date. Be sure to post holiday service times prominently on the homepage. Post regularly on social media. Moreover, bring someone on to be in charge of maintaining the church’s online presence, whether an employee or volunteer.
Provide clear signage. Make clear on church grounds where people need to go. For example, include things like the nursery and Sunday school, the sanctuary entrance, adult Sunday school and coffee. Also, create small signs at the refreshments area that are welcoming and beautiful. Details with intention make a large impact.
Offer good quality refreshments. Imagine how we treat guests when they come to our home. We give them some of our favorites, some of the best. Do the same in welcoming visitors to church. For example, buy high-quality coffee and perhaps delicious locally-made pastries. We feel cared for and important when someone invests in us in this way, and it’s no different for those who are new to a church.
Hospitality as Community Culture
Welcoming visitors to church is more than checking boxes. Hospitality is for all of us. When we live out our faith through care with intention, we actually help those who are already regular attendees feel more connected, too. Furthermore, we communicate our common humanity, our personhood as individuals and worthiness as children of Creation. We hope you discover ways to welcome visitors to church this holiday season as an expression of your unique faith community and the whole year through.
Do you have more ideas? Share below in the comments!