Ask the average pastor if his church is friendly and you will get an almost 100% affirmative response. Everyone thinks their church is friendly – and it is to them. But to the typical stranger that walks through our doors, we might be shocked at how un-welcome they perceive our church. Here are some things to consider if you want to make your church more welcoming.
Make it extremely easy to find your church – especially online. Yellow page books are almost museum pieces. While I still encourage churches to make sure their listing in the local phone book or yellow pages is accurate and up-to-date (have you checked yours lately?), most use an online search engine such as Google, Bing, Yahoo, AOL or Ask. You should check your listing in the top ten. Your website should be current with directions, phone numbers, email addresses, service times, and more. Make sure your answering service is working and includes addresses and phone numbers. Your church sign should be clean, well-lighted and include service times, also.
Make sure guests feel welcome as soon as they arrive. If parking is limited, use trained lot attendants. Have “reserved for guests” spots close to the front. Door keepers are important and hostesses are essential. Guests should be greeted as soon as they walk in, given a guest packet and helped in completing a guest card (simply say: “We would love to add you to our mailing list. Can we get your address?”). They should be informed of washroom locations, nursery rooms if needed, Sunday school classes on Sunday morning and other unique needs. They are then introduced to an usher who will make sure they are seated on a main aisle, about half way down (instruct the church and ushers to leave these spots open for this very reason). This makes their response at altar call easy.
Make it easy for guests to know what you offer. Your guest packet should include information about upcoming special activities and that you offer home Bible studies. Guest packets should also include contact information, a description of ministries, and how to contact the pastor if needed.
Make contact within 24 hours. A simple phone call works. Simply say, “Hi, this is Debbie from First Apostolic Church. Pastor Johnson asked me to call and let you know how much he appreciated you being with us in service this past Sunday and we would love to have you visit us again. Do you have any questions I might answer?” This call will go a long way in letting them know you love them and are there to help. A personal letter from the pastor should arrive a few days later.
Make a home visit within seven days. Trained follow-up workers should knock on their door before the next Sunday and leave a nice gift (a small tin of cookies works great!). They should be invited back with a nice color flyer and asked if they have heard about your home Bible study program. (No? Let me tell you about it!). You can also ask if they have any prayer requests and offer a quick prayer for urgent needs.
Remember that 100% of your new converts come from your church guests. Very few get the Holy Ghost the first time they come. So encouraging their return is the best evangelism ministry you can have. Don’t let anyone tell you this kind of effort doesn’t work. Studies show that churches making these kinds of efforts see double the converts per year over those who don’t.