5-ways-to-make-guests-feel-welcome-on-sunday-mornings

5 Ways to Make Guests Feel Welcome on Sunday Mornings

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Whether you call it “Hospitality Ministry,” “Guest Services,” or “The Greeting Team,” making the effort to welcome new faces and established members alike sets the tone for how our congregation experiences Sunday mornings.

Hospitality is more than window-dressing; it’s a value that matters to God. In both the New Testament and the Old, God urges people to extend hospitality not just to loved ones and neighbors, but to enemies (Romans 12:3) and foreigners, too (Leviticus 19:34).

What’s more, God asks us to extend hospitality not just because “it’s the right thing to do” or “because scripture says so” but because it’s an expression of God’s love. In 1 Peter 4:8-9, it says “above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.”

When it comes to hospitality, love— more than numbers, growth, and retention— is our purest motivator. If we can approach guest services with the mission to shower strangers with God’s grace and goodness rather than to add another talley to our attendance sheet, we are doing more to further God’s kingdom here on earth.

With love as our foundation, here are 5 actionable tips for jumpstarting or elevating the hospitality ministry at your church:

Polish your online presence.

Today, a church’s website is their true front door. Before anybody makes it to your physical campus, it’s safe to bet they’ve given your website and / or social media a once-over. Your website should make important information to new time visitors clear and easy to find. Most new families will want information on your children’s ministry, church values, and how to actually find your campus. Do your best to make this information accessible and simple to search.

Clean up the campus.

When you’re looking to sell, every real estate agent worth their salt will talk to you about curb appeal. The first thing visitors will notice about your church starts outside your building. Is parking available and easy to navigate? Are your front doors easy to spot and get to? What happens once they walk through those doors?

Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time visitor and see, if you had no prior experience, if you could find your way around. Is the signage clear? Are the paths accessible? How clean is the area? Does it feel welcoming and inviting? Once you’ve identified areas that could use improvement, make adjustments accordingly.

Get personal (without crowding their space).

Sometimes greeting people can feel like a tricky balance. You don’t want to ignore visitors, making them feel unwelcome, but you also don’t want to overwhelm someone who might just be hoping to slip into service anonymously. Train your greeting team to identify new faces and ask these two low-key yet welcoming questions

“What’s your name?”
“How long have you been attending?”

From there, the conversations can either continue or your guest can move on to finding their seat. This is also a great icebreaker if your visitor has any questions about finding the children’s ministry, the bathrooms, or whatever else they might need help with. If a guest does need directions, don’t just tell them, offer to walk them there and show them the way.

Hospitality doesn’t end at the front door.

It’s important to remember that hospitality doesn’t begin or end with the greeting team at the front door. Everything that happens on Sunday mornings comes back to hospitality. The sermon, the worship service, the children’s ministry, the coffee table are all tools that exist to create an atmosphere that is welcoming and engaging for everyone to experience God for themselves.

Collaborate with the teaching, worship, and announcement teams to ensure that those speaking from the stage during the service have guests in mind. You don’t need to turn a spotlight on visitors— most people hate that— but staying away from insider language and acknowledging those who might be joining as guests can go a long way to make visitors feel comfortable, included, and welcome in their seats.

Follow up with a gift.

Nothing makes an interaction feel more transactional than a warm welcome that is never followed up. When guests are exiting the service, have the connection table in clear view so, if they are interested, they can fill out a connect card and learn about next steps they can take like coming again next week, joining a small group, or learning out about membership.

When guests fill out a connection card, be sure to follow up with a warm personal note or a thoughtful gift. If you’re going to do a gift, make sure it’s a real gift and not just a bulletin or glorified church merchandise. Find something that most people would use or enjoy even if they never come back again. Some simple yet appreciated ideas could be gift cards, quality chocolates, or a nice cozy mug.

Launching or tightening up a guest services ministry doesn’t have to be complicated or cost a lot of money. A few intentional changes can go a long way in helping your visitors feel welcome and included on Sunday mornings. After all, how many spaces do people visit where they are actually seen? Seen and accepted and invited to belong for nothing other than their presence, their inherent worth as a human being? Don’t miss this opportunity to love and esteem strangers with the intentionality of Christ.

Emma Tarp, Author

About the Author

Emma Tarp is a writer and worship leader based in Minneapolis, MN. On her best days, she's highlighter-deep in a good book or teaching herself to sew. On her other best days, she's helping passionate folks and inspired businesses put words to their work. Find out more at emmatarp.com.

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