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11 Practical Ways to Welcome a Church Visitor
Here’s just a fun little post for you today to follow up what we talked about on Monday! If you missed it, be sure to read it for some thoughts on seeing your church through the eyes of a new person. It’s an interesting and important thing to think about.
By no means is this a complete list, but hopefully it helps trigger some ideas and ways you could more tangibly be the welcoming “host” to visitors. This really goes for any gathering!
Physically shake hands
This greeting would look different in other countries, but it’s a part of our U.S. culture and it can speak volumes. Just the way you shake hands can indicate warmth or just an attitude of “I’m required to greet you now.” Communicate a hospitable welcome to that visitor. (Oh, and be careful about squeezing too hard – I once had a friend grip my grandma’s hand so strongly that she cried!)
Look them in the eyes
I’m no expert in this area whatsoever, but it seems to me this might be a dying skill. We all look at screens and talk to each other through digital mediums that we perhaps don’t have the practice our parents and grandparents had in good in-person communication. Surely there’s a whole science of it, but I do know that it’s important. So practice it!
Focus your mind on what they are saying
Perhaps it’s easy for you to look people in the eyes, but I’ve experienced people who can do this and, still, their minds seem 100 miles away. It’s really important to hear what visitors are saying so as to engage with them and help them feel a part of the church family you should be.
It’s become a bit of a family joke of how non-observant I am, so this is certainly not something that comes natural for me! But I’ve learned how well it helps me connect to new people – not only to make them feel welcome (and give them something to talk about when they’re uncomfortable in a new setting), but it also helps me remember the entire scene better! A huge part of welcoming visitors is the follow-up, as I talked about on Monday.
Do they have green-eyed kids who are adorable? Is someone wearing a sports shirt with a team you know something about? Little things like this will give you conversation starters.
Make a Pre-Game Plan
I highly recommend making a plan with your spouse or family (or yourself) beforehand. Be ready to invite that new person or that new family over for lunch or, if you prefer, treat them somewhere. If Sundays don’t work for you, try not to say, “Hey, we should do lunch sometime…” That’s a good start but how about actually scheduling it!
If that is absolutely an impossible line in your budget, perhaps you could budget for a smaller plan. For example, you could suggest your families all meet at the mall food court, each buying their own meals and sitting together. Get creative!
Get Their Information
Don’t just exchange names. Before your quick conversation is over, try to see if you can get a phone number or email address to connect later – say you can give them more details on what’s going on in their age group or for their kids. Whatever makes sense for your personality, your age or the situation.
This also gives you a great opportunity to write down their name! It would be awkward to say, “Oh, you’re name is Howard? Hold on a second while I write that down.” Now, because you have a phone number to write down, you’ve got their names forever!
Get Over the Forgetful Excuse
It seems everyone I run into nowadays says they are bad at remembering names. I feel that way about myself quite often! But I do believe it’s vital to this part of your Christian welcome. A person’s name is the most special and intimate thing about him or her – it’s who they are.
Google up ideas on how to remember names. Sometimes, when I’m meeting a few people at once, I go around one more time at the end of the conversation like a guessing game: “Okay, let me see if I still have it… You’re Ashley, your husband is Tom and your twin boys are Jeremiah and Zach.” I’m sure this is something different for each mind and personality, but figure out what works for you.
Write Things Down
When you head back to your seat or whatever you do when the conversation is done, write things down quickly! Write down names, jobs, where they moved from or any single detail they mentioned that might help you connect with them in the future. It’s hard making new friends – goodness, I know, I’ve moved many, many times – but little conversation triggers can make a huge difference in building relationships. Not to mention, after you get home hours later and you’ve met five different new people, you’ll be able to keep it all straight!
It really can make all the difference to someone returning to your church (perhaps ANY church) if you actually do what you said you would do. If you told a new mom you’d let them know details about a weekly play date you’re involved in, do it! If you told a new elderly couple you’d call them with details on available Wednesday night classes, do it!
And, in my opinion, if it’s an email you promised, write that same night. If it’s a phone call, call by the next evening. After that (as I mentioned in my post about when I was the new person), they start to wonder if they’ll ever hear from you.
Be Ready With Answers
It’s important to be somewhat prepared with a few answers new people might need or to have the confidence to say, “I’m not sure, but I’ll totally find out and get back to you!”
For example, visiting parents of young children might have concerns about nursery workers getting background checks – does your church do that? Or sometimes teenagers have a special weekly meeting time that isn’t on Sundays – do you know when that is? Or they might have questions about the food pantry ministry they’ve heard you have – do you know who runs that and could connect with them?
Again, it’s 100% fine to not have all the answers but be cheerful and assuring that you will work your very best to get them the answers. Your effort could unknowingly be the trigger that keeps that person attending church and becoming a future leader!
Act Your Age
Ha! All I mean by that is keep your eyes peeled for someone in your own age group. Greet other people, too, by all means, but a visitor that looks near your age will most likely connect best with you! Don’t tell yourself, “Oh, Debbie will make sure that girl is greeted over there. She’s more outgoing than I am.” Well, Debbie may be 30 years older than that girl! Be intentional about seeking out young parents if you’re one, or a college student if you’re one or a lady who might be an elderly widow if you’re one.
My husband became a Christian when he was an adult (around the college years) and I always remember something he said to me on this subject. If he hadn’t intentionally plugged himself into a church and their ministries, he might not have ever stayed or gotten connected. No one greeted or hardly talked to that “creepy, single guy” who showed up one week. Well, I’m not single anymore and I’m most definitely not a guy, but I implore young men to seek out these types of visitors. It breaks my heart a little because I imagine my husband was an exception to the rule – that most would fade away if they aren’t reached out to.
I am praying today as this is published that this lights your fire. Be brave, my friend. If this shy, introverted girl can do it, I have complete confidence you can, too!
Can you add to this list? Comment below…