Have you ever visited a mega-church?
If so, then you know the feeling– sitting in the plush movie-theatre seating, sipping on a freshly prepared latte and trying desperately not to covet. In our heads, we think “Oh the things I could do with this budget, these volunteers, or this facility!” We enjoy the great music, super preaching (complete with fancy power point slides, of course) and head back to our cars feeling a little bit discouraged with the resources in our own church.
Sure, it’d be great to have those things, but is the bulging budget really what gets families to stick with one par
ticularly church or another? Research indicates this is not the case. So just what are people looking for when they show up at your church doors? Studies say:
Every Bible-believing, Jesus-preaching church should have #1 covered, but it’s quality #2 that has people hopping from church to church, looking for just the right fit. How do you cultivate friendship in a church? It starts with having a friendly congregation – and that is the small church advantage.
One aspect of exuding that “friendly-feeling” is being able to recognize when someone is new and give them a welcoming greeting. We all know this is much easier to do in a smaller church. Not only do you more readily know who the regular attendees are, you also have less literal ground to cover in the sanctuary.
In a large church, you may spot someone new, but by the time you go around six pews, over three aisles, and through three clusters of talking people, they have vanished! Or, the worst – you may indeed make it to them, asking oh-so-politely “Is this your first Sunday with us?” only to be answered, “No, it’s our seventh”. Yikes!
If friendliness is indeed one of the top two things on a newcomer’s church shopping list, smaller churches should be rejoicing at their clear advantage over their mega counterparts (not that this is a competition, of course!) So, how do we make the most of this “Small Church Advantage”? By moving our friendly factor from good to G.R.E.A.T:
Everyone appreciates a greeting, even if you are not new. Taking the time to greet many people in the congregation cultivates a culture of friendliness. When newcomers see church members regularly greeting and chatting with each other, it gives the impression that friendship is happening here.
R: Remember their name
There is nothing that communicates value more than remembering a person’s name. Perhaps because so many of us fail in this department, when someone does remember a name, the act shines brightly. When meeting someone for the first time, don’t think about what you’re going to say next! Really listen to a person’s name when they share it, and try to use it at least twice in the conversation before you head to your seat. You might even want to write it in your bulletin and use it again to wish a newcomer farewell at the end of the service. Now that would make an impression!
E: Exchange Information
Make sure your church has some kind of system in place for gathering guest information. Whether it’s Registration at Kid’s Club or guest cards in a Welcome Packet, devise some way to follow up with your guest. Then, make sure you do indeed follow up! Whether it’s a “Thanks for Joining Us” letter or a basket of cookies delivered to their door, find some way to connect again with guests during the week following their visit.
A: Assign a friend for the day
There’s nothing worse than being in a completely new place, not knowing anyone or where anything is. You feel lost and certainly less than confident. Help set your guest at ease by giving them a friend during their visit. This friend can serve as tour guide, showing them around the building when they arrive (pointing out things like the nursery or the restrooms), helping them to find a seat, and maybe even sitting with them if they don’t have anyone to sit with. Afterwards, this friend can ask how they liked the sermon and invite them back again. Don’t be too pushy (i.e. don’t follow them INTO the bathroom to make sure they find everything okay), but be available so they don’t have to feel lost and alone.
T: Tell them you’d love to have them back
This is a simple one. Give a newcomer something pleasant to think about as they head to the car. Something like how glad you are that they came and how much you’d like to see them return. Making someone feel valued and appreciated is a key step in turning a guest into a member.
Now get out there and be friendly!