Being the most welcoming church in your area is not rocket science and pretty easy to achieve.
I’ve had some awful experiences visiting other churches over the years, from the large church with multiple services to the small baptist church that just haven’t taken the time to make sure they are welcoming new visitors.
Think about it – if you have a congregation of 100 currently and get 5% visitors but manage to get only 5% of those to stick – your church will grow by at least 10% a year and double in 7years!
So how welcoming are you? Why not use this how welcoming are we audit tool next Sunday? Get a few people to fill it out with the eyes of a visitor. Better still get a non Christian friend to come and do it!
Your church at a distance- website
Your website is the primary shop window for first time visitors, who haven’t been invited by someone.
How clear is it for the first time visitor? – the who, the what, the where, and then when – should be right on the front page!
Does it communicate who you are? Or is it a bit corporate, or a building?
Have you signed up for google places, so your venue appears on the map and a google search for “church your town” gets you above the fold by the map?
Does it work in all browsers and on mobile devices?
Your meeting place
Can people find it easily? Is there good signage, both outside and inside the building you use.
Are the toilets clean and nice enough? One hired venue we used for a very short time, we had to take a bottle of bleach with us to clean the toilets and mask the smell! (we moved to a better venue pretty sharpish)
Do you have a good welcome team who know they are there more to welcome people than give out a notice sheet?!
Do the regulars turn up early enough to talk to visitors. A first time visitor at The Gateway last week, emailed to ask if they should get there 15mins early – that’s what visitors do, because they are nervous about finding it, parking and getting a seat.
Do you have a welcoming culture – or are the people cliquey and ignoring visitors.
Do you have a welcome pack – please don’t embarass visitors in the way you give it to them, by making them stand up! I don’t want to be applauded, that is embarassing not welcoming!
What’s your follow up process? We track visitor follow up with our church admin plugin (for WordPress sites) – we used to use this visitors spreadsheet to track our welcoming process.
How do you get address details? We currently use a guest book – nice old ladies are great at getting people to sign it with an address!
Are visitors getting chatted to by lost of people and invited out for coffee, back for lunch, to multiple small groups?
Visit your visitors quickly – Herb Miller’s “Magnetic church” gives some stats on how many return if visited quickly. When laypersons make 15 minute visits to the homes of first time Sunday visitors within 36 hours 85% of them return the following week. Make this home visit within 72 hours and 60 percent will return. Make it seven days later and 15% will return. A pastor making this call, rather than laypeople, cuts each result in half. The statistic, I have used, came from this little 1987 book by Herb Miller and often quoted by Joel Comiskey.
What others ways do you make visitors welcome?