The “C” in C.L.O.S.I.N.G. the Back Door stands for Creating A Welcoming Environment. Two of the keys to church growth is getting more people to visit and then keeping them once they do. In order to keep them long-term, they must be assimilated through relationship-building and church involvement.
As a pastor, take the necessary time to thoroughly prepare to preach God’s Word, but also focus on creating a welcoming environment. Plan in such a way that your guests know you expected them and that you’re glad they came!
FIRST IMPRESSIONS are often LASTING IMPRESSIONS and you never get a second chance to make a first impression!!!
While most pastors devote countless hours to sermon preparation and to delivering their “Sunday best,” most guests decide if they will return during the first 10-12 minutes after they enter the parking lot….before the sermon even begins!
Here are some tips to creating a welcoming environment….
- Offer multiple “entry” points. In most churches, the first time a person visits the church, they visit during the morning worship service. But, not everyone is comfortable coming to the morning worship service as a first step. Provide other entry points like sports teams, cookouts, mission projects, fellowships, etc., where people can take a step or two toward the church.
- Prepare for company. When we are expecting guests in our home, we prepare for their visit. We buy extra groceries, vacuum, dust, put things away — whatever it takes to make a good impression and make our guests feel welcome. We should do the same every week at church because we may have guests who visit.
- Enlarge your parking. Churches should have one space for every 1.8 people attending the church. Ideally, the lots should be no more than 80% full and there should be a minimum of 5% of the spaces reserved for guests.
- Nail up some signs. You probably won’t actually “nail up” signs, but proper signage is important. There should be good directional signs outside and inside the buildings.
- Invent a welcome center. Welcome centers can be utilized in any building, regardless of the architectural design or age of building. You can even put a welcome center outside the building when weather permits. Just invent a place. You can purchase a small table, a table cloth, a flower arrangement, and put a welcome center near any high-traffic entrance. Put your best people at these welcome centers and provide some good, basic brochures. You can print them in full color on an ink-jet printer and they can look very good.
- Nurse the nursery. Some of the best money you can spend on the church is in the nursery area. Parents expect the nursery to compare to their baby’s room at home.
- Give guests a proper send-off. The most important impression is the first impression, but the last impression is very important as well. After the service, put your parking lot greeters back outside, man the welcome center, and treat people as nice on the way out of the church as you did on the way into the church. Be sure to invite them back.
For more details about CLOSING the Back Door see the entire series: