Four Keys to Helping Your Guests Feel Comfortable
There’s so much more to being visitor-friendly than just saying hello at the door. Unless you’re going to have one of your members stay with a first-time visitor through the whole experience (which might be a bit uncomfortable for the visitor!), there are some things you’ll want to consider, such as these four keys to helping your guests feel comfortable.
Key #1: GIVE EXPLANATIONS
It is important for visitors to understand what’s going on. And that will take a bit of explanation. For example, when I visit in Christian churches, I know the Lord’s supper will be served, so I watch to see how others are taking it. Do they hold it and take it together? Do they take it as it is passed? Do they hold it while they pray, and then take the emblems individually? There’s no information in most bulletins. If I didn’t know to watch others, this part of the service could cause some embarrassment.
Take time to think through your entire worship service, as well as the other aspects of your Sunday morning gathering. If you were brand new to church culture, what would you need to know about? Have a section in your bulletin to explain these things.
Many churches no longer print an “order of service” in their bulletins, believing that it gives them more flexibility in the schedule. While that is true, it also leaves the visitor wondering what’s coming next and what they should do. If your church doesn’t print the order of service, be sure that the worship leader gives clear direction to the congregation.
Key #2: USE SOME FAMILIAR MUSIC
There is arguably no other aspect of today’s worship service that is more controversial than music.
Young people, as well as many adults who didn’t grow up in a church (and some who did!), are quickly bored and “turned off” by older hymns that use unfamiliar phrases and tunes. They prefer a more fresh, contemporary style of music. At the same time, churches have many members who love the old hymns, and see in many of those songs an attitude of worship that is missing in some contemporary music. They believe, and rightly so, that “hyping up” emotion is not the same as worshipping. What is a worship leader to do?
We’ve noticed that many growing churches are doing a good job of blending the old with the new. They are willing to use a variety of instrumentation and musical styles. They make use of the best talent available in their congregations. (If there isn’t talent available for good “special music,” they’ll go without rather than give a poor presentation.) They aren’t afraid to try something new, but they still make an effort to encourage older members by not just tossing out the hymns. They understand what King David wrote in Psalm 33: “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting to praise Him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”
Years ago I worked with an organization that ministered in prisons. One evening I was to lead a Bible study in the boys’ school (a prison for 12-17 year-olds), and knowing they enjoyed music I took my guitar with me. After a couple of choruses, I asked the boys if they had any requests of songs they’d like to sing. I was so surprised to hear them ask for The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace. When I asked them why they wanted to sing those hymns, they said, “I learned that when I was a kid and went to church with my grandma.”
A church that wants to be effective in making visitors feel comfortable will recognize that not everyone wants to feel like they’re in the middle of a rock concert, but neither do they want to feel like they’re stuck in the middle ages. It’s true that you’ll not please everybody. But having a blend of styles will help many more people truly worship through music.
Key #3: PROVIDE INFORMATION
Visitors are always more comfortable if they know their way around, and what’s going on. For this reason, it’s important for churches to have information about the church readily available.
Greeters should be stationed at every outside entrance to the building where visitors normally enter. An attended welcome center or table with church brochures should be nearby (make sure it is easily identifiable).
Make sure there is adequate signage! Many church buildings are confusing, especially if a guest is trying to find the children’s department or an adult classroom. Signs will point the ways to these areas, as well as the welcome center, restrooms, fellowship spaces, offices, and more.
An attractive, well-designed information packet not only provides the visitor with information about the church and all of its classes, services, programs, etc., it also shows guests that the church cares about doing things with quality and excellence.
Key #4: MAKE FOLLOW-UP CONTACTS
Studies have shown that visitors are most likely to return if they are contacted within 36 hours of their visit to a church. Some church leaders I’ve spoken with have said they have people who take a plate of cookies or a loaf of homemade bread to the home of first-time visitors. At the very least, a note of welcome is sent to the visitor from the church office.
Putting visitors on the church’s mailing list (with their permission!) will keep them in regular contact with the church. These reminders can help build a relationship with the church—even if it is on a limited basis.
WHAT ABOUT YOUR CHURCH?
Much more could be said about being visitor-friendly. Just remember, we do all this to open the door for them to meet Jesus.
Although there are more efforts that your church could make to help visitors feel comfortable, these four keys are a great starting point, and would go a long way in building relationships with guests.
What is your church doing to make itself visitor-friendly? Leave your ideas for others below!
© 2015 by Jim McLoud. All rights reserved.
These ideas and more are presented in my Four Step Plan for Outreach and Church Growth seminar.