Making guests welcome at your church is serious business. Church consultant Gary McIntosh knows the truth of that statement: after moving to Tulsa, Okla., and encountering a chilly reception in various congregations, his grandparents stopped going to church. They never regularly attended for the rest of their lives.

"We must get ready for company!" writes the Biola University professor in his book, Beyond the First Visit." "Company's coming to our church every Sunday, and what visitors perceive in our welcome will influence their feelings and response to church and the Lord for years to come."

Five ways he recommends hosting your guests:

  1. Arrive early to make sure everything is ready for their arrival.

  2. Greet them warmly at the entrance, escort them to their seats and help them understand what is taking place.

  3. Anticipate and answer as many questions as possible in advance so they don't have to ask.

  4. Do something extra to make their visit special.

  5. Walk them to the door and invite them back.

Don't just make this a simple checklist, McIntosh says. He advises putting these statements on paper, with room beneath each one, and then noting ways your church accomplishes these objectives.

When finished, take a different colored pen and write a second list of additional ways you can fulfill each goal. Consider reviewing the lists with appropriate groups in your church.

Proactive Outreach

For churches that want to move beyond their doors and advertise themselves or a special event that may attract newcomers, McIntosh offers a set of questions churches should answer as they produce a flyer, brochure or other mailing:

  1. What is the purpose of your church?

  2. What makes your church unique, compared to others in your ministry area?

  3. What are some benefits guests can expect to receive from attending?

  4. What are newer members saying about your church?

  5. What do you want the reader to know, think, feel, and do after reading your first-impression piece?

  6. What resources do you have for producing it (budget, time, helpers, equipment)?

  7. What primary audience do you hope to reach with your advertising (families, youth, the elderly, singles or a particular ethnic group)?

  8. Has your church started ministry in the Internet's cyberculture? If not, when will you start? If yes, how can you improve? Who can help?

From the Pulpit

Finally, pastors must remember they are the key to launching any initiative, procedure or evaluation. The pastor has the main voice of the congregation because of preaching on Sunday morning and other weekend services, McIntosh told Church Central.

"Whoever has the voice to cast the vision seems to have tremendous influence," he says. "I think we've all known for years if the pastor blesses something from the pulpit, it gets done. If the pastor chooses not to bless it, it doesn't get done."

"I don't think the pastor has to start every ministry. That's not good. But the pastor has to lead, in the sense of giving permission to people. The pastor can say to the congregation, 'If you've got an interest in a certain area and want to start a ministry, we'll be glad to help you.'"

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