Article: In the Visitor’s Seat

handshakeIt is a wonderful thing to be in the ministry and to share ideas that might help us to serve the Lord more effectively through His church. One aspect of the church ministry that we have focused on this year is the way in which we present ourselves to our guests in the first few minutes of the Sunday School hour and the beginning of the service.

As I have traveled with my family to different churches, just dropping in as a guest on vacation, I have often been surprised by the lack of attention and direction that a visitor receives. I have walked on to the property and wondered where to go and where to take my kids; I have stood in the foyer and wondered where the classes were, while people passed me on their way to their responsibilities. In one large church, I was not given a visitor card and was not greeted by anyone other than a single staff member. At a small country church, the pastor stood on the front porch while talking to another man and stared at me – I had to introduce myself to him! Apparently, they were not expecting visitors.

One of our families visited a church on vacation and told me the same thing – they were left standing in the auditorium, wondering what to do. So, it must be a more common problem that you might expect. The fact is that if you make people feel uncomfortable in the first few minutes of the service, Satan will try to use it to hinder them from listening to your message later. It’s one thing if the gospel makes the uncomfortable – and another if our lack of hospitality does so.

Though I don’t think I’m by any means an expert, I do think it valuable to share ideas. Perhaps some will find this helpful.

  1. IMG_5965Prepare a welcome packet for visitors. I purchased some bulk 6×9″ “Welcome” folders. Of course, you can order them customized if you like. Inside the welcome packet is: 1) A visitor card; 2) A prayer request card; 3) A full-color, glossy, 5.5 x 8.5″ brochure; 4) A pen with church information; 5) A church business card magnet. 
  2. The brochure in the welcome packet is very important. I realized as I sat in the visitor’s seat that I had no idea who was teaching my children. I also realized that someone who is not used to a Baptist church service may not know what to expect or what would take place. So, this brochure first welcomes the guest, then explains the order of service, asks the guest to fill out the visitor card, and then introduces the Sunday School and children’s ministries and workers. Each teacher/leader is pictured with his or her spouse and a little bio is given for each, as well as the classes they teach.
  3. IMG_5966You should have a Head Usher or pair of greeters ready to welcome all guests when they arrive.
  4. Someone should be ready to take them to the nursery if needed.
  5. We have found it very effective to have an opening session for our Sunday School. All but our Senior Saints class and nursery meet in the auditorium. We sing and welcome visitors, then pray and dismiss. I often do something special with the kids as well. This open session allows visitors to stay together and meet their teachers before dismissing them to the classes. This is better than taking them around to several classrooms.
  6. Always tell people what to do (nicely). At the beginning of the service, I greet everyone and welcome our visitors from the pulpit. I don’t ask them to stand, I just greet everyone together. I keep a visitor packet in the pulpit and take a minute to show them the visitor card and the prayer request card. I ask them to place them in the offering place or hand them to me on the way out (I am waiting at the door to remind them). 
  7. We give a small gift to our visitors – a custom coffee cup with our church information.

Sometimes  we forget what it is like to come to church for the first time. We are used to our church – we know what is going on, it is home to us, and we can forget that everyone doesn’t know where the nursery or the bathrooms are, or who is teaching the classes. Also, in an unchurched age, we must remember that much that we do is foreign to many – from the hymns to the offering to the invitation. We need to explain ourselves so that Satan will not hinder people from hearing our message.

Thank you for reading. God bless.

About James Rasbeary

I am the pastor of the Lighthouse Baptist Church in Wylie, Texas. Check out my blog at www.broraz.com.
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