More Than a Handshake

Most guests entering our churches receive a cordial hand shake and a “glad you are with us today.” While this initial contact with guests is important, Debbie Rendell of St. Petersburg, Fla., says churches must go deeper.

The president of Integrating Focus says a congregation that wants to promote fellowship needs a leader who demonstrates an outgoing nature so that God’s love will touch everyone who enters.

She says such a stance should include a time and place where guests can meet the pastor afterwards, as well as multiple greeters throughout the building and a sensitivity towards newcomers.

“What if everything you did was focused on guests?” Rendell asks. “You have parking places for them, have someone to greet them, give them a bulletin and a map of the church…Invite them to sign up for a tour of the building, or assign a person to be with them for their entire visit. You want guests to realize you’re there if they need you.”

If personal guides aren’t a realistic option, the Florida consultant says a welcome team can hand guests a card with a cell phone number to call in case they need directions or other information.

Signs of unfriendliness

Rendell says some indications that a church isn’t that friendly include:

  • * No directional signs inside or outside the building.
  • She shared an experience of visiting a church with multiple services, the group she was with had to ask four times to find the one they wanted to attend!
  • * No welcoming committee, greeters or guest packets.
  • * Nothing for guests beyond a 30-second “meet and greet” time during the service.
  • * No one invites guests to dinner or their home. Or, at least an invitation to return next week.
  • * No recognition of guests.
  • Rendell says this doesn’t mean calling out individuals or asking them to stand, but a global welcome to any newcomers and a “thank you for coming.”
  • * Small groups are closed, meaning no guests can connect with one.

“You see so many things that are missing in how a church functions and how it looks from the outside,” Rendell says.

How does your church handle a first or second time guest? What can you do beyond a handshake? We never get a second chance to make a great first impression!

Keep the Son in Your Eyes,

Mike James

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