Have you ever visited a new church and the experience felt awkward and confusing? Maybe you didn’t know where to park or how to find the nursery. Perhaps you had no idea who or what the pastor was referring to throughout most of the Sunday morning announcements.
Do your first-time visitors ever feel this way at your church?
Whether you’re hoping for more first-time visitors or you want to increase the number of people who come back again and again, it’s important to know how to welcome church visitors in a way that’s not awkward, confusing, or intimidating.
Here are a few best practices for welcoming new visitors to your church.
How to Welcome Church Visitors Before They Arrive
Did you know that the process of welcoming new church visitors often begins long before your guests arrive at your church? It’s true.
The world has changed a lot in the past few years. While some first-time guests may pull into your parking lot as they’re driving by, many new guests will interact with your church online before deciding to visit in person.
For example, they may attend a live online event your church hosts, download a free guide you offer, follow your social media channels, or visit your website for information about your service times, dress code, children’s programs, and more.
This is why it is vital that your website and social media pages are kept up-to-date. These platforms often provide people with their first impression of your church and what you stand for.
You want to share information including:
- Your Address
- Your Phone Number
- The Service Times
- The Dress Code
- What Programs You Have Available (and at what times)
- Your Church Staff (with pictures)
- Your Statement of Faith
- Video Clips of Past Sermons, if available
- And anything else to help people know what to expect or how to prepare.
Want to improve in this area?
The Front Door Church Podcast is full of great suggestions to help you dramatically increase the number of people who attend or stream your church services – extending the front door of your church beyond your physical property to meet a world in need.
Learn more at FrontDoor.Church.
How to Welcome First-Time Visitors in the Parking Lot
Once new visitors decide to visit your church in person, you’ll want to help them feel welcome from the time they pull onto your property.
Be sure to include plenty of signage if it isn’t immediately clear where people should park or which door they should enter.
Depending on the size and resources of your church, you might also put together a parking team or a wagon team to direct traffic, help guests find the best parking spaces, hold umbrellas on rainy days, or give small children wagon rides up to the door.
This step is especially important if you meet in a large church building that includes multiple entrances or in a location other than a traditional church building.
How to Welcome Sunday Visitors inside the Church
In addition to placing plenty of signage outside your church, you’ll want to include plenty of signage inside your church as well.
Make it abundantly clear where things are located, including:
- The Information Desk (if you have one)
- The Main Sanctuary
- The Restrooms
- The Nursery or Cry Room
- The Sunday School Rooms (for kids and adults)
- The Church Offices
- The Coffee and Donuts (if provided)
Similarly, be mindful of how you name various rooms and programs. If you tell young parents that they can drop their little ones off in the “Lamb’s Room,” they likely won’t know what or where that is or what age of children you’re referring to.
For this reason, it can be helpful to have plenty of greeters on hand – enough so they aren’t chained to the front door. This way, you can have someone available to walk a new guest where they need to go, so there’s no confusion.
Be sure to give first-time church visitors a simple, non-invasive way to connect with you further. If you ask new visitors to fill out a lengthy sheet with tons of personal questions, they probably won’t bother. However, if you can offer a small gift (such as a coffee mug) in exchange for their email address, you can continue to follow up and invite them to return.
And finally, make yourself available for visits and questions when possible. While people choose which church to attend for a number of reasons, the pastor is often one of the most important factors. Let people get to know you!
How to Follow Up with Your Church Visitors
Often, the best way to continue to welcome church visitors after their initial visit is to follow up with an automated email sequence that shares information about your church, your programs, and the various ways new church visitors can get involved in your community.
The key is to automate your follow-up where possible.
We’re all busy, and it’s easy to intend to follow up with new visitors only to never get around to it.
By creating an email or text sequence that goes out automatically when new visitors sign up, you can stay in touch effortlessly without having to remember or set hours aside each week.
Put Yourself in Your Church Visitors’ Shoes
Once you’ve attended the same church for months or years (or decades!), it can be easy to forget how confusing, awkward, or overwhelming visiting your church can be for a new visitor. After all, you already know where everything is, what all the lingo means, and what to expect.
When considering how to welcome church visitors more effectively, here are three tips that will really help.
1. Drive into your church parking lot and pretend you’re brand new. Is it clear where everything is? Can you easily find what you need? What ideas for improvement do you notice?
2. Ask newer church members for their feedback. What did they initially (or still!) find confusing? What questions did they have? What could have been more clear?
3. Visit other churches. Not only will this remind you what it feels like to be new, but you can often pick up some great ideas for how to welcome church visitors by seeing what other churches in your area are (or are not) doing.
Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate all of the awkwardness and confusion new guests may feel when visiting your church for the first time. However, by thinking through how to welcome church visitors more effectively, you can proactively eliminate as many obstacles as possible, creating a friendly, welcoming church people will want to attend again and again.