My job allows me the opportunity to worship in a different church almost every week. Much of that time I am the guest speaker, but other times I’m just out visiting int he churches in our network. I find most of our churches to a fairly good job at worship (our tribe ranges from almost “high” church, to traditional, to blended, to contemporary and beyond).
However, the thing I find most surprising is the poor job a lot of churches do at welcoming guests. This is one of my “soapbox” issues. But the reason it is a hot topic for me is that it can be so damaging! People… if you don’t make me feel welcome, why would I ever come back?
I would categorize churches on the hospitality scale as follows:
Deer in the headlights – In some churches it is obvious that a guest is the last thing they expect to see on a Sunday morning. When we walk in, several people just stare at us. Finally some ole’ boy will come up in put a bulletin in our hands. It is no wonder these churches don’t have guests on a regular basis.
One big family – The people in these churches really love each other. They pride themselves in saying that they are the friendliest church in town. When you walk in, they are all busy talking with each other and catching up on the week’s events. They love each other so much, they don’t even notice a new person. They mean well, but they come off as the least friendly church in town.
Everyone knows the Playbook – Many churches just assume you already know where to find things and how they do things. They don’t use signs or greeters or any other means of helping first time guests figure out what is going on.
The Welcome Center Church – This one is a little better. They have established a “welcome center” where people are given the task of being nice to newcomers. I find a few problems with the Welcome Center Church. If you arrive before the center is “manned” on Sunday you are out of luck. (Hint, Guests often arrive early on their first visit.) Another problem with these churches is that the Welcome Center is sometimes hard to find. There are no signs or people outside directing guests to the right door. And another problem I sometimes find in these churches is that no one else greets you since there are people who have that “job”.
The Truly Welcoming Church – These churches always expect guests, and everyone in the church is focused on making guests feel at home. They often have Welcome Centers, but their people go way beyond. On Sunday morning they focus on people they don’t know, rather than using this time to catch up with their friends. They save the best parking spots for guests, and their greeters are stationed outside so you know exactly which door to use. They have people on the greeting team to walk you to where you need to go (children’s area, restroom, auditorium).
All of this seems so simple – why do so many churches miss it?