1. Teach your members the difference between “having friends at church” and “being genuinely friendly to guests.”
• People come to church looking for a friend not looking for a friendly church.
• Churches are friendly but it is usually to each other, not to new people.
• We have one chance to connect with them relationally. Don’t blow it.
• Encourage all your members to be greeters in the pew and in the parking lot.
2. Train your people with the skills needed to be friendly.
Some people based on their personality are naturally good at this and others can learn to be effective in this area. Simple things like…
• A smile
• A handshake
• Eye contact
• Wearing a name tag
• Remembering the name of the guest
• Invitation to lunch or dessert
• Focusing on their needs not ours
• Sitting with the guest during worship
• Providing a tour of the building
• Getting the information from them and inviting them to attend Bible study or worship again
• Inviting them to your house
• Follow up with a phone call or card
3. Bring in an outside observer (secret guest).
This is a person who will visit the church incognito and evaluate what they see and feel. Then let that person come back and share their experience with the whole church. You could use several people of different ages on different Sundays to have a more comprehensive report.
• Have this person attend Sunday morning worship or a Sunday School class as if he or she were looking for a church home.
• The observer will prepare a written report with recommendations for improvement and change.
4. Preach a message on how Jesus connected with people.
When you read the New Testament you see how Jesus started conversations and shared with all kinds of people. He is our example of how to love and care for people whether they are a new guest or a long time church member.
5. Conduct a Bible study for all Sunday School classes on “being a friend to new people” or “first impressions.”
Develop a lesson that would communicate this truth the same Sunday that the pastor preaches on this topic thus creating much synergy. The key is building a climate of Christ-like love that permeates your entire church.
6. The 5 minute rule!
Train your people to only talk with people that they do not know for the first five minutes immediately after worship.
Our tendency is to talk with our best friend about what is happening in their life while guests just stand alone and watch all these people in fun conversations.
What if everyone just took five minutes and focused on people other than their friends?
7. Pray that the Holy Spirit would change your church culture to be all that the Lord wants it to be.
Does the Lord want your church to reach new people for His Kingdom or just stay the same?
Is your church “user friendly” or “for members only?”
Do your members desire to grow and reach people for Christ?
Churches that grow and retain their first time guests have a culture of hospitality and Christ-like love that is felt the moment a new person walks through the door.
You can be the catalyst to take some of these ideas and put them to use in your church.