How to make a visitor friendly church and encourage church membership

Ask just about any member of any congregation whether or not their church is friendly to visitors and, by and large, the answer will be an emphatic “yes!”.

At the same time, we can all attest to visiting a church for one reason or another and found the congregation to be less than inviting, warm and friendly.

Chances are, many churches believe that they are friendly to visitors but, it may not be so.  Surely there is something or many things a church can do to make it more enjoyable for visitors when they come to the place where the members love to be.  There are, in fact many things a church can do to help it generate a more visitor friendly environment.  We will consider information, maintenance of the building/grounds, understanding of the worship service, and of course the friendliness of the people.  When these things become a priority, many churches will see visitors return again and again.

  • Where is the bathroom? No one wants to ask such a question but they will if they must.  People who have been in the same church for years could find the bathroom if the lights were turned off.  As a result we tend to forget that people coming to visit don’t know the somewhat hidden location of bathrooms.  So, put up easy to find signs directing people to the restrooms.
  • Where is the nursery? People with children whose ages make them appropriate for the nursery will frequently be late to worship simply because it is harder to get out the door on time with little ones.  Make it easier for them.  Put up signs for them too.
  • What does your church believe?  What are their core values?  Do you have a ministry for senior adults?  What about high school seniors? These and other questions are answered easily enough by some pamphlets on a table near the most used entrance.  Your denomination’s central office may help you in the area of doctrine/beliefs/values and already have such materials printed.
  • How clean do you keep your house? If you’re like me you clean the floors, do some dusting, tidy up the shelves and make sure the house in general is presentable.  Why would we want to treat the house of the Lord any different? Yet it is easy to find cob webs in many corners of the church, dead bugs on window sills, light bulbs burnt out, bathrooms without toilet paper or paper towels.
  • When was the last time the sanctuary was painted?  Are the carpets worn?  How do the hallways look?  Could they use some touch-up paint?  Do the weeds need to be pulled?  Is the outside maintained? Some well placed annuals and perennials add welcomed color to entrances and signs that introduce people to your church.  People notice if these areas have not been kept up, however, they will notice your pleasure in the place where you worship the Lord as you enjoy seeing improvements in the church facility.

Some other useful tips:

  • Making it easy to understand Complicated Church Terminology – Perhaps you will have a visitor come to church who really isn’t all that familiar with church “stuff.”  Maybe they have never heard the words catechism, creed, doxology, benediction, hymn and so forth.  Whenever possible take the opportunity (either the pastor can do this as the service progresses or as written in the bulletin) to explain some to the terms or language of the worship service.  They will feel more at ease and not quite as lost.
  • Name Tags – Also, members would be appreciated by visitors if some wore name tags to let them know who they are talking to.  A visitor registry which they can be gently encouraged to sign will help the minister place the face with the name so that when (Lord willing!) they return he will be able to address them by name.  Dale Carnegie said that the most beautiful sound a person can hear is their own name being spoken.

In time, these kinds of simple means can be the difference between someone visiting once, or in someone returning, building relationships and making your congregation their church home.  So roll up your sleeves, paint a wall, plant some flowers, put up some directional signs, release the bright smile and you’ll be rolling out the welcoming mat.

About Johnathan Richards

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