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Are you ready for company?

Your church sign invites people to attend and assures them they will feel welcome. Members invite unchurched friends and relatives, promising they will feel "at home."

How welcome are people in your church? An honest appraisal of most churches will reveal that they are loving and friendly toward members of the congregation, but not so friendly toward visitors or newcomers.

Statistics underscore the importance of being prepared for guests who come to your church and Sunday School. The first 10 minutes after a guest arrives and the 10 minutes after the service concludes may decide if he or she will return.

What are people looking for? In the business world they say that there are only two things that people buy: good feelings and solutions to problems. Do people get that from your church? If they don't feel comfortable, they won't stick around to find out if you have solutions to their problems. Of all places, the church should make people feel loved and accepted and offer solutions to their problems.

In his book, How To Win Customers and Keep Them for Life, Michael Le Boeuf talks about who the customer really is. I've adapted it to the visitor because he is the church's customer.

What Is a Visitor?

  • A visitor is the most important person in this church.
  • A visitor is not dependent on us; we are dependent on him.
  • A visitor is not an interruption of our work or our pleasure. He is the purpose of it. We are not doing a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.
  • A visitor is not someone to ignore or treat casually. No church has ever been effective without them.
  • A visitor is a person who brings us his wants, needs, hurts, and dreams. It is our job to handle him properly so he can become all God intended and our church be counted as wise stewards of the ministry God has entrusted to us.

Many churches are unaware of the complacent attitude they exhibit toward guests and newcomers. Training people to be hosts and greeters is an important step toward making visitors feel at home in your church and Sunday School. Prepare for company.

Enlist a Hospitality Team Coordinator

Look for a person in the church who has influence and the gift of hospitality. (This person usually influences 12 to 25 other people.) Share the vision of a hospitality team with this person, stress the significance of this responsibility, and offer training for this ministry.

Recruit a Hospitality Team

After he or she is comfortable with the task, ask the coordinator to help you recruit others to serve on the hospitality team. Newcomers frequently make excellent team members because they are excited about the church and it shows. Invite these people to attend a meeting to discuss this important area of ministry, what's expected of hospitality team members, and how the church will help and train them to be effective. After the meeting ask them to make a commitment to serve.

These people will be your greeters, ushers, hosts/ hostesses . They should be warm, caring, friendly, and able to make people feel at home.

Members of the hospitality team should be present in each class or group and in entrances, hallways, and the auditorium of the church. A good ratio is one hospitality team member for every 10 people attending. The hospitality team members may serve on a rotating schedule such as one month on, one month off. Some may want to serve consistently.

Train Your Hospitality Team

Although the greeters, host/hostess, and ushers may have some responsibilities unique to them, the training for all hospitality team members should include the following information.

The Problem. The primary motivation for coming to church is loneliness. George Barna's research on Americans revealed that nearly 50 percent wish they had more close friends, 76 percent feel it is nearly impossible to have long-lasting friendships because society is changing so fast, but 49 percent say that if they wanted to make new friends they would look to the church. People still expect the church to be a place where they can make friends. If loneliness is not the problem, they have come for another personal need in their life.

The Purpose. The primary purpose of the Hospitality Team is to make people feel at home, comfortable, accepted, and needed in the church. This opens the door to minister to their deepest needs through the power of the Holy Spirit and the truth of God's Word.

The Plan. You need the right preparation. This means:

  1. You will come to services 20 minutes early, prayed up and prepared to serve. Your preparation in your spirit and attitude is essential.
  2. When you see a visitor, you will politely acknowledge his/her presence. Let the visitor know you are there to help and serve. Some visitors are more subdued; others are more outgoing. Adjust your approach to the attitude they convey.
  3. Prepare for visitor questions. What classes do you offer, and where do they meet? Where are the children's departments? Where is the best place to sit in the auditorium? Inform them of visitors spaces on the parking lot.
  4. Prepare for each type of visitor. How will you deal with single mothers or fathers? How will you deal with a family of four children? How will you take care of the physically challenged person?

In How To Win Customers and Keep Them for Life, Michael Le Boeuf says,

"A person will only buy when they are feeling glad about you and your products and services. People spend money when and where they feel good."

The application to the church is that people return only where they feel good about themselves and the people around them.

The Right Conversation

1. Build rapport. You do this by your expression, demeanor, and conversation.

2. Ask non-threatening questions to get acquainted. The first 4 minutes are said to be the most critical. As the guest is deciding if he or she likes your church and the people, the host/hostess, greeter, and usher represent the church as a whole to the guest. Share your name and ask the guest for his or hers. Ask if this is the first time the guest has attended the church. Other areas that can be discussed in the first minutes are:

  • occupation hobbies, interests,
  • current events,
  • mutual interests, or acquaintances.

3. Listen for hurts, facts, feelings that the person communicates verbally or nonverbally. What is going on in this person's life? Is there a need, a crisis, a problem that has motivated him or her to come to church? Be sensitive and respond appropriately.

4. Observe with an accepting spirit. Are there subjects to which the person is sensitive? What is his or her lifestyle? Often you can learn a great deal as you observe with sensitivity and discernment. Just don't jump to wrong conclusions.

The Right Touch

What does it take to win and keep visitors? It depends on how they feel about you, your ministries, and your services whether they will commit and keep coming back. You can have the right touch by observing several principles.

  1. Put yourself in the glad emotional state. Feelings are contagious. People like to be around people who are happy and friendly. Act the way you want to feel, and soon you'll feel the way you act.
  2. Never tell your guest your problems or complain about your family or church. Share the benefits and positive aspects about your church and people.
  3. Remember that a visitor comes for his or her reasons, not yours. He does not have to be there. Unless the benefits are greater than the cost, he won't return.
  4. Act as though you are the only personal contact the visitor has with the church and behave as though the entire church's image depends on you. Take personal responsibility for making the visit enjoyable. Remember you get only one chance to make a positive first impression!
  5. Show genuine interest. Write down the person's name so you can remember it. Be sincere, warm, and accepting. Smile. Be willing to talk about yourself but be more willing to listen to the other person. Make sure your body language is open and caring rather than closed and distant. Make sure your dress, scent, and breath are appropriate. Continue your conversation when you see the person the next time.
  6. Give the visitor an opportunity to become acquainted with your church----its ministries, vision, and history. Give information that will sell the visitor on what your church has to offer.

    (Adapted from How To Win Customers and Keep Them for Life by Michael Le Bouef)

Ministry Description for Hospitality Team Members

  1. Come prepared to minister with the right spirit and attitude.
  2. Make sure your dress, scent, and breath are appropriate.
  3. Arrive 20 to 30 minutes before the service or class.
  4. Wear your name badge.
  5. Smile and offer a hand in greeting to everyone.
  6. Make everyone feel welcome especially visitors.
  7. Help visitors even if you have to leave your post.
  8. Give guest packets to first-time visitors.
  9. Ask visitors to sign the guest book or fill out a guest card.
  10. Visit briefly with the visitor to inform and build rapport.
  11. Introduce visitors to one or two other members.
  12. Help visitors find a class/seat where they will feel comfortable.
  13. Inform the Hospitality Team coordinator when you are unable to fulfill your assignment.
  14. Pray that God will help you to serve to the best of your ability.
  15. Continue learning how to serve more effectively.
  16. Recruit and help train one other person each year to serve on the Hospitality Team.

Remember it takes months to find a visitor and only seconds to lose him or her! Are you prepared for company? If you don't take care of your visitors, somebody else will!


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