Many churches get it right when it comes to welcoming visitors properly. Here are six markers of especially welcoming churches.
- They place the right people in hospitality.
When I drive up to a church, I love to see three things right away. First, I like to see a parking team member smiling and waving as I pull into the lot. Second, I look for parking team members spread throughout the parking lot (not bunched up and talking to one another), directing me to the third thing: guest parking. When I see clearly designated guest parking, I know the church expects and values guests.
- They communicate intentionally and strategically.
I appreciate churches that don’t assume people know things. I can tell right away if a church values newcomers, because I see they have already answered every possible question a guest could have. On the website, I love to see an “I’m New” button or a “What to Expect” page—helpful resources for potential first-time guests. Also, churches that prioritize hospitality post clear and plentiful signage. Their signs use plain language, not insider jargon.
- They take security seriously.
Every church should prioritize safety for the people gathered on their campus—especially children. I recently visited a church with security team guys in black shirts scattered throughout their lobby and church campus. They each wore something I always look for: ear pieces. This is one of the best deterrents we have at our disposal. If someone up to no good sees a person wearing a black security shirt and an ear piece, they will think twice before doing something stupid or harmful.
- They have an efficient children’s check-in process.
I love to see volunteers ready, willing, and able to assist new families as they check in their kids. The average person off the street has never heard of your church’s database and check-in system, so whatever you can do to ease their nervousness and frustration will go a long way.
If you have enough volunteers, consider creating a dedicated first-time guest check-in station, clearly marked and manned by a team member who can walk parents step-by-step through the check-in process. The first time is always the most tedious, so encourage them that the next time will be easier. This is a wonderful way to show hospitality and remove barriers of intimidation and fear for guests.
- They think through the response after the sermon.
I love to see a church communicate to guests that they have a Newcomer Connection (a first step) or a New Member’s Class (a big step) coming up. In a new member’s class, attendees hear the vision, values and beliefs of the church, meet the leadership team, and hear the pastor’s heart for reaching their community. When newcomers fully understand their role and how God equipped them with gifts for the body of Christ, they can become co-owners of the vision. They can enter into the church’s discipleship process.
- They are intentional about following up with guests.
The churches I’ve seen retain the most guests have a simple and clearly defined discipleship process. It’s all about helping people take next steps. Churches that do this with excellence don’t overwhelm people with complexity. I firmly believe that you can accomplish more by doing less. It helped me understand this point. If you are strategic and intentional about your assimilation process, you will go a long way toward closing the back door of your church.