The Welcoming Team

Some ministries have a real sense of welcome but often ministries miss the mark on this one. Often times the leaders are busy getting the service or meeting ready instead of being available to welcome people as they arrive for your event. Whether it is a church service, a ministry meeting or an event in your church you need to have a welcoming team. Perhaps in your ministry you have a dedicated group of people who are part of your welcome team or maybe you don’t. Either way every church and ministry could improve their sense of welcome.

There are two important principles that should drive welcoming in your ministry:

  1. Everyone is responsible for creating a welcoming ministry
  2. You need a specific group to enhance the welcoming procedures

Before we get into the role of an effective welcome team, I want to shift your thinking a little. Instead of thinking of the usual welcomers who just hand out bulletins before the service, could you think of your welcome team as customer service staff? Rather than recruiting people who can smile and shake hands, could you recruit people who will go the extra mile and help people feel a part of your community. A member of the welcome team should never say “I just hand out the bulletins ask a staff member”. Perhaps you might need to privately call them the customer service team so that they know they are not just welcoming people but serving the people who attend your church or ministry events.

So what should this customer service team or welcome team do? Is it just about a friendly smile on the way into church or into your ministry event? The welcome team should do much more than smile and hand out bulletins. They should make people feel welcome, look out for visitors, locate toilets for people, explain the children’s ministry to parents, connect young people with the youth ministry and even help people find a seat if needed.

Here are some important things for the welcoming team to focus on:

  • Be available 20 minutes before the event – whether people arrive late or on time at your church, your welcome team need to be there before anyone could turn up. Someone is always running early and these are the people the welcome team have the most time to talk to.
  • Look out for visitors before and after the event – the welcome team should be looking out for visitors who are not familiar with how your church or ministry does things. They can look lost, unsure of where to sit. Visitors will check out your notice board more than the regulars do. Many visitors to churches and ministries make a first impression based on how they are welcomed and whether the first people they meet are open or closed to new people.
  • Be available 20 minutes after the event – if the welcome team do their job of connecting with people before the service then they are the best people to follow them up after the event. If your welcoming team think their role is about handing out bulletins then they tend to check out once that task is done. The welcome team needs to see their role as beginning before everyone arrives and finishes after everyone has left.
  • Focus on parents – having kids and working in youth ministry I really believe that our churches need to engage children and youth. Yet the reality is that parents drive children and youth to and from church events so make them feel welcome. At your youth events have someone on your welcome team that welcome visitors and some who talk to parents. The more you can engage the parents the more they will support your ministry. For sunday services the parents are often the most confused as to where there kids need to be or how the service engages kids so be available to answer their questions.
  • Help with logistics during the event – great welcome teams will also assist with moving and seating people during the event. Perhaps you need to arrange more chairs or simple ask people to shuffle in to free up seats. Perhaps you need to help move children in and out of the children’s ministry. The welcome team should be looking out for how they can help during the event not just before the service.
  • Know about future events – the welcome team will often be asked about the events in the bulletin or on the notice board so find out about other events in your church. The welcome team should never say “I don’t know about that ask a staff member”. When someone is part of the welcome team it is like they are a staff member.

There are many unique things that churches do for their welcome teams. Some have fancy tshirts, special name badges or set up special visitor desks. Often the welcome team at children or youth events also need to collect forms, sign people in or collect money. All of these elements are unique to your ministry and church setting so be intentional about tailoring the welcome team to your setting. Irrespective of your local context it still doesn’t change the fact that your welcome team are there to serve the people attending your church not just hand out bulletins.

Please leave a comment with tips from your welcome team.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald

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Is your church ready for Visitors?

Is your church entrance sending the message that visitors are welcome?

Is your church entrance sending the message that visitors are welcome?

In the New Year people will visit new churches, try out new ministries and attend prayer meetings.  So it is likely that there will be visitors hanging around your church buildings this month and next month.  So what do you think the church buildings look like?  Now try to think how new people will see them.  We need to tidy up the church buildings in the same way that we would clean up our home if we thought visitors were dropping in.

Recently we invited neighbours to come to our place for lunch and we thought we better clean the place up.  Looking at our house from the perspective of a visitor I noticed a whole lot of mess piled up on our front porch.  For weeks I had walked past it without noticing it but with visitors coming over I paid more attention to the details.  Most of the items just needed to be put away so the place looked tidy.

The same is true for your church buildings.  Recently I visited a church foyer that was spotless and had clear signage telling me (a visitor) where to go.  However I also attended a church where the foyer was a mess, it still had Christmas items laying around in February.  Sometimes we need to imagine our church through the eyes of a visitor and here are a few things they will notice:

  1. Can I find the correct room?  It is so important to a first time visitor that they can find the room they are supposed to be in.  Try to think like a first time visitor, is it really obvious which door they should enter?  If not then you need to have a person or sign directing people where to go.  Can parents find the kids ministry room?  Can young people find the youth group in the various rooms on your site?
  2. Where are the toilets?  Often people will ask where the toilets are so it isn’t a big deal but if they are really hard to find then put up a sign.  Often visitors will go to the toilet before your service because they are nervous about how long the service will take.
  3. Is the space tidy?  A visitor should not have to see decoration failing down or mess from a previous event.  Have the musicians kept their area tidy or is it a mess?  Is the hospitality area clean?  Are the toilets clean?  Are there tidy facilities for parents to change a nappy?
  4. Stay up to date – replace any old posters or out of date event material.  Make sure that the bulletins from each week are put in the recycling bin.  One church I visited had flyers for a theological college that were five year out of date.
  5. Less is better – don’t try to fill your foyer or notice board.  If a space is too cluttered then the mix of things confuses people and everything blends in.  Instead of trying to advertise every ministry event in your district, give clear message to visitors about what you would like them to attend.  One church I visited just put up new notice boards and they filled it with at least 50 ministry events across the city to the point that their own ministry events got lost in the noise.
  6. Where is the coffee?  If you go to the effort of putting on tea and coffee make sure that visitors know where to find it.  Don’t expect them to follow the crowd; they will most likely avoid the crowd and go to their car.

Every time we have visitors to our house we hope that they love our home as much as we do.  The same is true with our church buildings except we want them to love our church not the buildings.  Richard Riesling in his book on Church Marketing says that visitors have made many decisions about your church before the service even begins, make sure that they are the right decisions.

markoffaith, Mark of Faith, mark of faith, mrmarkmcdonald, markoffaith.net

Introductions at Church events

Empty Chairs in Conference RoomOver the past few weeks I have been paying extra attention to how ministers, service leaders and worship leaders introduce themselves at church services, prayer meetings and ministry events.  Given that it is a new year, there is a high chance that visitors are testing out a church or ministry for the first time so a good introduction is important.  But I have noticed that there are some simple phrases that people say or don’t say that may sound odd to a visitor.  When standing in front of a group, think about how a first time visitor hears what you say.

Here are a few tips on introducing yourself at your next church or ministry event:

  1. Expect visitors – even if you know that nobody in the room is a visitor introduce yourself as though there are visitors present.  This will not only train you to make it a habit but also train the congregation that visitors are to be expected.
  2. You are not a celebrity – never ever say “my name is _____ if you haven’t met me yet”.  You are not the centre of attention so don’t make it about people who haven’t met you yet, it implies that everybody knows you.  It is better to warmly state your name and your place in the church/ministry/congregation such as “my name is _____ and I am a member of this church/congregation”.
  3. Don’t assume anything – sometimes we assume that people remember what we did last week or assume that people were attending last week.  We can’t assume that everybody knows the service order or how we run our prayer meetings.  If you expect visitors then expect people to be a bit confused as to when to sit, stand, kneel, sing etc.
  4. Stay positive and energetic – it is important to kick off the service or meeting with a lot of energy just like it takes a lot of energy to get an aeroplane off the ground.  If you are the first person to stand in front of the group give a positive and energetic welcome.  We know that some people have had a bad week but they don’t need to reminded of it with a boring welcome to church.
  5. Thank people and affirm people – often we take people for granted, we need to thank people for attending our ministry events, church services and prayer meetings.  You don’t need to list all the things they could be doing instead of coming to church, don’t give them any ideas for not attending, but you need to be aware of what people give up to come along.

Whilst this might seem simple enough, the welcome and introduction are often overlooked when planning a gathering of God’s people.  If you are not the service leader or minister in your church, then perhaps you can pass this post onto them.  My hope is that churches expect visitors to come every week and that when they do come, visitors feel warmly welcomed.

Creating a Welcoming Church

Going beyond “putting out the welcome mat”

On Saturday I attended the opening year leadership training at my local church.  Almost 150 people turned up to hear how we can be a more welcoming church.  I will get to what we talked about later in the post but I want to share three stories with you first.

  1. A Church – On Sunday I was speaking to a friend of my who is new to their local church and I asked him how it was going.  He said that whilst they were making every effort to keep going it was getting harder to stay at this church because nobody talks to them.  This particular Sunday not a single person had spoken to them yet there were many families attending just like them.
  2. Hardware shop – Whilst I still had the thoughts of Saturday and the experience of my friend going through my mind, on Monday I went to my local hardware mega store – Bunnings.  When I got to the front door the lady at the front said “hello and welcome to Bunnings.”  Whilst I thought it was nice I knew that that was her job.  As I went around the store every single employee stopped to say hello to me and asked me if I needed help.  What impressed me the most was the welcome I got from people who were not officially on welcome.
  3. My Church – on sunday at my church I exchanged the sign of peace with a mother I met on Family camp, spoke to a doctor I had never met after the service, had coffee with one of the dads from our small group and on the way out said hello to a stranger who I thought was coming for the next service.

Why is it that I get a warm welcome at my local Hardware store and nobody talks to my friend at church?  If the experience of my friend was a once off I wouldn’t have to write this article but the fact that many people feel unwelcome in many churches and in many denominations tells us that we have a welcome problem in Church.

It is important to remember that in this era of front door greeters at every department store, people are immune to the person on the front door.  Many churches put all their welcome effort into the person on the front door yet the people in the pews keep to themselves.  Our churches have to training everyone to have a spirit of welcome not just the people rostered on to welcome.

Here are three things that I learnt from Michael Harvey (creator of Back to Church Sunday) at our church training on Saturday:

  1. Inviting – many churches are not inviting yet they say they are welcoming.  We have to go beyond hoping that someone will walk through the front door on Sunday; we have to ask them to come on Sunday.  Your church needs to encourage people to feel welcome at your church before they have even made it into the car park.  People should feel welcome at your church because they were invited to a service.
  2. Welcoming – once people invite their friends to church the entire church must be welcoming.  It is not up to the welcome team or the greeters or the priest to do the welcome.  People are waiting for someone in their pew to say hello.  Create opportunities for people to talk before the service starts, during the exchange of peace, after the sermon or homily and after the last song when the service is finished.  People can come to a quiet church any day of the week other than Sunday; Sunday is the time for community interaction not private devotions.
  3. Befriending – if people get invited to come to church, the come along and feel a sense of welcome but nobody ever makes friends with them then they won’t stay very long in your church.  As important as welcome is befriending new people is even more important if you want them to stay in church longer than a couple of weeks.  If you want to disciple new people that come to your church then you have to befriend them and be in relationship with them.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in creating a welcoming church; it won’t happen over night and you have to keep working on it.

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About Michael Harvey – In 2004 Back to Church Sunday was birthed and Michael started to work using his own time and money with churches throughout the UK and eventually throughout the english speaking world. He has spoken to thousands of church leaders in his Unlocking the Growth Seminars and has to date seen thousands of Christians mobilised to invite, resulting in hundreds of thousands of accepted invitations. Check out his website or read his blog articles on invitation

markoffaith.net

markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald