A while back I had the privilege of visiting New Testament Christian Church in Greece, NY. Among other things, I was impressed with how we were greeted. As we walked up to the front doors of the church a gentleman was waiting and opened the doors for us. Since we were carting the whole family in, that was helpful. As soon as we entered the lobby a very helpful greeter introduced herself and very quickly got us acclimated to the church. I received a welcome brochure, was asked to fill out a guest card and was quickly shown where Guest Services, the bathrooms and the children’s rooms were located. She was very friendly and comfortable talking with us. What a great way to enter a new church for the first time!
In his book, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of your Church, Nelson Searcy shares four steps to greeting guests. I urge you to setup a meeting with your greeters/ushers this month and discuss how you are doing with each of these.
Obviously, your first step is to greet guests as they arrive. This means greeters will choose to focus on guests before attendees. Otherwise, your guests may very well ‘slip in’ unnoticed. It is very easy to greet guests. In fact, you can use the acronym “h.e.l.l.o” as a reminder.
H = say ‘Hello’ (give an authentic and verbal greeting)
E = engage in conversation (look them in the eye & refuse to be distracted)
L = listen (let them share who they are with you, listen, and remember)
L = listen some more (nearly everyone likes to talk about themselves)
O = offer assistance (note any way the guest(s) might need assistance and offer to help)
It doesn’t matter how many signs you have posted (and you better have visible signs posted), guests want to know where they are supposed to go and what they are supposed to do. Are they supposed to drop off kids first? Should they go to Guest Services now or later? Or is the sanctuary the next stop? Don’t assume anything. Better to give your guests a little too much information than not enough. Confusion creates anxiety and you don’t want anxious guests.
Your next step is to ensure guests are treated well. Ideally, you will give them a VIP experience without making them feel uncomfortable. Think about what you would do if a very important person were going to visit your home. What would you do to accommodate and take care of them as they arrive and during their visit? Could you give them a special gift or offer them something to drink? Might they want a breath mint just in case they forgot to brush their teeth before leaving the house? What else?
Finally, remember to help your guests to their seats. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to escort them. It does mean you ensure, in advance, that comfortable and appropriate seats will be available as they enter the sanctuary. By the way, appropriate seating does not mean the front row or front rows. Most guests will feel self-conscious enough that they will likely prefer a seat in the middle or closer to the back of the room. This is especially true if they have young children. In general, guests want to maintain a good degree of anonymity during the service – so don’t seat them somewhere that will obviously highlight them to the rest of the congregation.
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