Top 10 Tips To Being a Welcoming Church
Newcomers to a church often find the experience intimidating. Not only are they meeting many people for the first time, but there are also many things they must figure out for it to be a smooth experience. A welcoming church means visitors feel “at home” the moment they arrive — but what does this look like in practice? How can you ensure your new visitors feel at ease?
Take a look at our 10 tips to make sure you have a welcoming church.
1. A Welcoming Church Starts Online
First impressions are everything. In this technological age, people may seek a new church for any reason. Maybe they’ve just moved to your area, or perhaps they haven’t attended church in years. The might simply want to see how other churches worship. Regardless of the reason, they often take to the internet to research potential churches.
In fact, 60% of people who go to church say that the church’s website is a crucial aspect of their relationship with the church. Your website might be the first time a potential visitor interacts with you, meaning it should offer a glimpse into what they can expect from an actual visit.
What to Put on Your Website
Some of the most important items your website should include are:
- Service times – When do your services start and end? Do you have a mid-week service? Are there other programs that you host throughout the week, such as youth groups or Bible studies?
- Church address – This information should be at the bottom of every page on your site. Including a Maps plugin is also a great idea.
- Contact information – There are so many modes of communication today. The most important contact information is a phone number and an email address. There are also plugins so you can add a chat feature right on your site. If your church is small, you can assign a few church members to monitor chat to answer questions. If you have a large congregation, a friendly chat bot can answer the more frequently asked questions and send more detailed questions to a dedicated parishioner.
- A New Visitor page – In your homepage menu, have a tab linking new visitors to information about your church and what they can expect on their first visit. Most churches don’t have a dress code, but if you do, explain that on this page, too. Also include information about parking, entrances, and whether you offer childcare for small children.
- Recent sermons – This is perhaps one of the most important items to have on your website. Being able to listen to your previous messages allows new visitors the opportunity to hear your messaging style prior to visiting. It offers insight into whether they’d fit in at your church and helps put them at ease.
With a great website, you’ve created a first impression of a welcoming church that will lead a new flock to your doors this Sunday. But what else should you offer that entices would-be parishioners?
2. Have a Well-Designed Parking Lot
Once a new visitor has reviewed your website and has your address, they’ll be excited to visit you in person – but what should they do when they arrive? New visitors are often nervous, so having an easy-to-navigate parking lot with ample space and signage is crucial.
3. Greet Them with a Friendly Face
Each door should have a friendly greeter to assist visitors, both old and new. Remember, a new visitor is likely nervous about their first visit, so seeing a cheerful face right away can ease their anxiety. If your church is particularly large, having a single door for new visitors with clear signage means you can personally greet each new visitor and offer a New Visitor pamphlet or information sheet as they enter. You can also direct them so they can find their way easily.
4. Have Well-Placed Interior Signage
Your church’s exterior signage plays a role in your overall appearance, but having signs inside your church directing visitors to each interior space, such as childcare rooms, helps them once they’re inside. Because they’re likely nervous, they may feel uncomfortable asking for help and instead try to find their way on their own. Interior signs help visitors navigate your church with ease. Some signs to consider in addition to childcare include:
- Information booth or welcome desk
Consider having these signs professionally made instead of handwriting them or printing them in the parish office. They should be large and have clear, blocked lettering so people can read them from a distance.
5. Pay Attention to Ambiance
Places have a vibe. A welcoming church’s atmosphere is warm and inviting. Each room should be clean and decorated well. A lobby or restroom that isn’t quite up to snuff will turn off visitors — new and old alike. This shows a lack of pride in the representation of your church.
6. Provide an Outstanding Children’s Ministry
New visitors with children pay special attention to the programs and services you offer for all ages. Can you imagine the anxiety a parent and child feels when they’re separated during their first visit to a new place? Offering exceptional childcare and children’s ministry programs can put their minds at ease from the very beginning.
7. Arrange an Inviting Sanctuary
This is where your visitors spend the most time, so it’s pretty straightforward that this should be a calm and inviting space. It should not have closed sections that could confuse new visitors. Ushers should be evenly spaced and friendly and help guide all visitors to seats, especially on larger congregation days and special events, such as Easter and Christmas. Ushers who know their congregation well can even seat new visitors together with friendly parishioners who can help ease the nervousness of a first-time visit. Something you should never do is put a spotlight on new visitors by seating them in the front row of pews.
8. But You Can Acknowledge New Visitors!
Your newest visitors pay attention to how you order your service. While they won’t necessarily want to be singled out or asked to speak, it’s important to find ways you can include and acknowledge them that will not be embarrassing.
9. Connect After the Service
It’s also important that the connection not end with the service itself. A few moments before your sermon ends, have a few long-time parishioners head to your welcome desk so they can greet your visitors as they’re exiting the sanctuary.
10. Follow Up
This is also the perfect time to ask new visitors to fill out a visitor card with whatever contact information they’d like to offer. For instance, connecting with visitors on Facebook or another social media platform is an easy way to not only include them, but to help them feel welcomed and a part of your church family. Following up with new visitors helps you seal the deal — they’ll likely enjoy that you remember them and will feel happy hearing from you.
Taking time to ensure your visitors know they’ve found a welcoming church goes a long way toward building lasting relationships. New visitors today can become your greeters of tomorrow.