Getting Ready for Guests, Part 3

Romans 12:13 says, “Practice hospitality.” Churches need to be places that are hospitable, friendly, loving, and welcoming. They should be places where people smile and one can easily see the love of Jesus.

This is Part 3 in this series on making guests feel welcome, but to be honest we will re-visit this subject often because it is such a key to moving our churches forward. Unless we improve our assimilation process, create a culture of welcoming, and teach our people the importance of being great hosts, we will probably not reach many people.


  • FACT #1: Your church cannot grow without guests.
  • FACT #2: Your church cannot grow if your guests don’t come back!
  • FACT #3: Churches need to be prepared for company.

Remember? Researchers say that church guests decide whether or not to return to the church they are visiting in the first 10-12 minutes upon entering the church campus.

So, what happens in the first twelve minutes?

  • They see your facilities.
  • They meet your people.
  • They decide whether or not you can meet their needs.
  • They decide whether or not to come back.

Before they have heard the music or sermon!

Part of this is how your facility and campus looks.

  • Have clear directional signage in parking areas and outside of buildings.
  • Be well landscaped.
  • Be clean, and well maintained.
  • Be inviting cosmetically.
  • Have ample guest parking spaces that are easy to identify and locate. These should be your best parking spaces!
  • Have greeters at all entrance points so no one gets in without a warm welcome and a smile. Choose your greeters wisely.  This is a ministry so choose people who are gifted to do this. Provide them with nametags and train, train, train. They should understand the value of this ministry. They should realize the value of a simple smile.

SmileHoliday Inn interviewed 5,000 people to fill 500 positions that were needed to open a new facility. When the hotel managers interviewed these candidates, they excluded anybody who smiled fewer than four times during the course of their interview. This standard was applied to every available job and to every prospective employee.

How many of our church members would qualify for a job at Holiday Inn?

Acknowledging Guests During Worship

How we acknowledge our guests during a worship service can either make them feel welcome or “let’s get out of here quick.”

  1. Treat everyone as if they are all first time guests.  Everyone who gives an announcement, sings, speaks, etc. should be introduced. Be specific in sharing information as if everyone is new to your building.
  2. When you acknowledge your guests, allow them some anonymity. Most guests do not want much attention so don’t ask them to stand and recite a Scripture verse, pledge to the American flag, and share their social security number.
  3. Teach your people to value all guests.
  4. Provide a reception for guests following worship so they can personally meet the pastor and staff.  As a pastor I found this provided some great benefits for guests who wanted to spend a little time with me and allowed me to get to know them.

Following Up and Following Through. Herb Miller gives the following statistics for following up:

  • 85% of guests return if visited in 36 hours
  • 60% of guests return if visited in 72 hours
  • 15% of guests return if visited in 7 days.

The guest card should be handled with extreme care and much prayer.

So, is your church friendly to new people or just to familiar faces?  Do you have trained greeters at all entrance points to your church?  Are you ready for company this Sunday?  What do you need to do to make a great first impression?

Our goal: Every guest should feel loved and welcomed.

As you incorporate these and your own ideas into the life and ministry of your church you will be well on your way to becoming a church that is reaching and loving new people for the Kingdom of Christ.


  1. Thanks Robert…we too easily forget what it feels like to be the new person coming into worship or Sunday School. We need to see and feel things as if we are first timers.

  2. This post is right on. I think one of the issues we run into at church is that we become so familiar with everything that we no longer see things in the same way that a visitor does. We tend to overlook the clutter, ignore the odd smells, fail to notice confusing signage and the like. Keep on reminding us about these things because they are crucial!

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