Creating a comfortable, welcoming environment takes a bit of planning and preparation, a touch of creativity and a commitment to maintaining an inviting atmosphere. Below are six ways to welcome visitors to your house of worship, to not only make a good first impression, but to also encourage retention.
1. Communicate clearly to visitors via signage
Take a moment and evaluate your house of worship through the eyes of a newcomer. Is it clear where to park, where to enter the sanctuary and where to sit? The realized fear of not knowing what to do — of looking like an outsider — could deter visitors from returning to a service or scripture study the following week. Get ahead of the issue and invest in clear signage that directs visitors where to go. The signage doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate — a few simple “Enter Here” or “Sanctuary This Way” signs can make a big impact on visitors.
2. Better yet, couple clear signage with a team of greeters
Welcome visitors with a smile, a handshake, and a sincere, “Good morning, how are you? Let me show you where to go!” Put together a small team responsible not only for recruiting greeters, but also for training them. (While being a greeter may come naturally for the extroverts of your community, some may appreciate a bit of guidance.) Ask your pastor to reinforce the greeting from the pulpit, expressing appreciation for the guests in attendance.
3. Encourage all congregation members to play the part of a host
Your greeters shouldn’t be the only ones to welcome visitors to your house of worship. All members should try to treat visitors as a host would treat a valued guest. Reinforce this responsibility during congregational meetings and scripture studies, or via newsletters, and give congregation members tips on how to be the best “host” possible.
4. Set up a welcome/information table or create a welcome folder
If you have the time and resources, set up a welcome/information center staffed by greeters. Or, create a welcome folder to be handed out to new parishioners. Here’s where you can tap into your creativity — include in the folder anything you think would be useful to new visitors: a welcome letter, a description of your congregation’s background and vision, the pastor’s contact information, details on how to access sermons online… Determine what combination of information works best for your ministry.
5. Educate visitors on ways to become involved in addition to worship services
There are likely numerous ways outside of worship services for attendees to stay involved with your community. Make sure everyone attending your services knows about upcoming scripture studies, family groups, and service projects. The welcome folder mentioned above provides the perfect opportunity to detail future activities and events, and a simple announcement to the congregation can alert visitors of additional ways to get involved.
6. Offer visitors the VIP treatment
If somebody contacts your church to express interest in visiting or becoming a member, offer them a special, personalized experience during their first visit. Arrange ahead of time for a member of the congregation to give them a tour of the facilities and introduce them to the pastor(s).
Creating a warm, friendly environment that welcomes new visitors and encourages their return requires a bit of coordination and collaboration, but can have a lasting, positive impact on your religious community. Take the time to make visitors feel included and you’ll begin to grow your congregation.
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