It’s the first time Dave and Kathy, along with their two kids, walk into this church. They’re a bit nervous, but they’ve heard good things about the congregation.

The preaching might be great, the service time perfect for their schedules, and the location a short drive from their home.

But those alone will not keep them coming back week after week.

As visitors, their reception from other church attendees might play a larger role in ensuring that they come back next week than anything else.

Whether we like it or not, we’re social creatures. God created us that way. It shouldn’t surprise us that visitors want to have a personal connection when they visit a new church. It’s relational; it’s how we’re wired; it’s essential to who we are.

The next time that new couple or single person or family walks into your church, here are a few tips to connect with them without overwhelming them—or completely ignoring them.

1. Make sure to say “Hello.” Visitors don’t expect everyone in the church to offer a greeting. But it’s a positive when at least a few people offer a handshake and a warm greeting. Just a simple, “It’s nice you’re here. My name is ….”

And if the visitor has attended for several weeks and regulars have yet to say hello, many visitors will notice—and probably go somewhere else.

2. Provide them an easy path to becoming more involved—at their speed and at their discretion. It’s impossible to know the path someone was on before they arrived at your church door. Some need time to heal before they make a concerted effort to become involved. Others might want to jump right in. Don’t assume everyone is alike.

But do assume everyone wants a clear understanding of how to make that next step. What Bible studies or small groups are offered? Where do they meet? Are there volunteer opportunities? Are there activities for kids? 

3. Make them feel special without making them stand out. This could be the most challenging. No one wants to be singled out in front of the congregation as “today’s visitor.” But they also don’t want to be ignored. Find that happy medium.

Try a few things. Get feedback. Revise.   

4. Share honestly who your church is and where it’s at on its journey. Let’s be honest, not every church is in a great place at all times. Some churches are in the middle of a pastoral transition; some churches have recently undergone budget cuts; some churches are just launching a new vision.

Be upfront and transparent about who you are and where you’re at. Most people will respect a church that’s honest as opposed to one that tries to hide or downplay a challenging situation.

If God is truly guiding people’s search for a new church, then we can rest in Him that He will bring us the right people at the right time.

These are just a few tips to help set the stage for how we welcome visitors. If you think about it, we’ve all been church visitors at one point. Just think how you would want to be treated and go from there.

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