I sent the weekly email to our congregation a few minutes ago. We are fortunate to have a lot of visitors each week, and we are always working on how to be more hospitable. I included some tips on practicing hospitality at the end of this week's email. Here they are for your review.
1) Choose a seat in the middle instead of the aisle. When I am flying on an airplane, I love the aisle. I never know when I might need to get up and go to the bathroom or get something in the overhead bin. My legs are long, and I also like to stretch them. However, church is not a flight and the sanctuary is not an airplane. Why do most people gravitate towards the aisle? We’re not really going anywhere! Rather than coming in and taking an aisle seat, how about moving to the middle and making room for others who might come later and need to sit on the aisle?
2) Immediately introduce yourself. It happens to me often – I introduce myself only to hear, “I’ve been here before.” It’s a little awkward, for sure, and I try hard to remember someone’s name. However, it is better to err on the side of safety and say, “I’m not sure I have met you before,” than to not say anything at all.
3) Invite someone to coffee hour with you and show them how to get to the Fellowship Hall. I am a huge extrovert. I love people. However, I am often completely intimidated by large gatherings where I do not know people. The same is true for coffee hour. It is so hard to walk into that space alone. It is easier to make a bee-line for the door. Our goal is to make sure no one bee-lines for the door but instead that everyone is asked and then personally accompanied to coffee hour.
4) Arrive on time – or a little early! Most of our first-time visitors arrive early – in order to find a place to park and then figure out how to get to the sanctuary. They often walk into a sanctuary that is almost empty. The service then starts with around 25 people in the pews and then somehow, by the end of the service we have 85 people in the pews. Help us make the right first impression – the impression of a vital church with a beautiful, diverse congregation – by being on time!
5) Reverse Greet – we are great at providing greeters for people who come into the church but we sometimes miss some of the bee-liners because we have so many different doors. Would you be willing to help us by going to one of these doors following the service and letting folks know how glad you are that they chose to come to your church?
6) Sign in – all the way in. Have you heard the statement, “monkey see, monkey do?” The same thing happens with our visitors. When you only write your name in the red book, they only write their name in the book. However, when you write your name, address, email and phone number, they will do the same. This information is so important to us! Your signing the book is also important to us as we are seeking to do a better job of keeping track of who has missed worship. I know it takes a little longer – but would you be willing to sign in as if it is your first time even if you have been here 500 times – letting us know all your information so that the person sitting next to you will do the same?
What about you? What makes you feel welcome when you are visiting a church for the first time? What are your tips?