Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:13
Hospitality is a worthy personal goal, but did you know it's also a biblical way to display Christ? With that said, hospitality should be central to how the church frames Sunday services. After all, happy guests equal healthy church growth. Most church leaders acknowledge that, but how do we measure our level of guest hospitality and improve upon it? In this post, we will discuss how to make your Sunday service, virtual or in person, guest-friendly in practical, achievable steps.
Tip 1: Map it Out
It’s important to stay familiar with the pathway visitors take when they join your Sunday service. Take a walk in their shoes, almost literally, by mapping out what happens from start to finish. For in-person service, that might look something like this - parking lot, front lobby, kid’s check-in, sanctuary/auditorium, then guest desk on the way out. Once you have that part down, ask yourself if visitors can navigate easily from one place to another. Also, are there any unmanned stations? This might mean investing in better signage or scheduling an extra volunteer to help guests along their journey.
For virtual services, this step is crucial. Do your website, church app, and social media pages all give clear instructions on what time service starts and how to access it? Once they join, is someone greeting them in the chatbox and asking them if they have any questions? These seemingly simple steps make a big difference in helping your guests feel welcomed.
Tip 2: Have a Guide
Everywhere a guest goes, there should be a guide to show them the way. This guide should be friendly, familiar with the church, and able to communicate the values and heart of the congregation. Don’t sound like robots, but have a unified, repeated message that each guest leaves understanding. Most churches have deacons or greeting teams, but make sure that every person from the parking lot attendant to the kid's check-in worker knows the mission of the church. This cohesive team mentality will let your guests know exactly what your church is all about, and if it is the right fit for them.
Virtual hosts should likewise be primed to share a warm welcome and missional statement in the chats. You might consider compiling a library of greetings, answers to frequently asked questions, and any other repeated statements for volunteer hosts to reference. Consider hosting small break-out sessions after the sermon to allow people to have social interactions and meet members of the church. Virtual doesn’t have to mean impersonal.
Tip 3: Who needs a Shortcut?
Know when to break the rules. Train your volunteers to spot when someone is wary of what is going on. Maybe they are nervous to leave their kids. Make an exception and give them a behind-the-scenes tour of the kid’s facility, even if that's not typical. Make them feel comfortable and welcome by breaking protocols when it seems safe and needed. If a first-time visitor clicks with a greeter or deacon, have someone take-over that post so they can chat with that person or even walk them into church. Remember, people > tasks every time!
This is harder to read in a virtual setting, but not impossible. If you host a post or pre-service video chat and notice that a guest did not say a word, shoot them a text and ask how they enjoyed service. We don’t want to spam people, but we do want to meet people where they are and help them feel welcomed.
Tip 4: Define your Terms
Assume that the guests sitting in your sanctuary or watching online have never set foot in a church like yours before. Explain what you are doing and demystify any traditions that your congregation follows. This will help guests feel less nervous or embarrassed if they aren’t sure what is happening. Explaining everything will help them know what is going on and feel like maybe they aren’t the only ones fumbling through their first service.
Tip 5: Have a Call to Action
What do you want your guests to do? Is there a card to fill out, or a desk to visit? Keep it consistent and tell visitors exactly what to do. Repeat it again at the end of service since they might have warmed up to the idea more after sitting in service. Have it referenced on the website and the church app - it should all be similar or the same as what you do in person. The main purpose is to gather their contact information. It also gives them an opportunity to ask questions, join a small group, or meet an established member.
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Tip 6: Have a Strong Post-Game Plan.
Just because service is over doesn’t mean the job’s done! Don’t let visitors sneak out the back door once the service is over. Make sure no one leaves with anything less than a smile, a wave, and a thank you. Follow-up during the week to thank them for coming and to see if they have any questions.
Hospitality isn't only a gift for a few elect. We are all called to welcome people into the family of believers. 1 Peter 4:9-10 extends an invitation for all of us to, “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." (NIV) . The tips mentioned above are a great start to enhance the guest experience of your church. Whether you are meeting in person or online, there are ways to help every guest feel seen, welcomed, and loved.