Creatively Engage your First Time Guests
The first step in creating a plan for welcoming newcomers is to think about a time when you were in their shoes. What did people do that made you feel welcomed? What made you feel intimidated?
Thinking about things from the freshman perspective will allow you and your organization to really connect with visitors.
Warm, Inviting Demeanors
All people, including children, can tell when the person they’re speaking with is being sincere. Conversely, you can typically tell when someone is not paying attention, cold, or hostile towards you. Therefore, it is important to make sure your Welcome Team understands the heart behind it.
Though they may seem basic, here are the keys to positive in-person welcoming:
- Smile and keep eye-contact (even nodding gently) as people are speaking
- Create a post-service or after-meeting time for people to casually meet and greet; Consider laying out name tags and, if possible, snacks or coffee
- Try exchanging the question ‘Is this your first week?’ for ‘How long have you been coming here?’ (It’s always better to be a new guy mistaken for a regular than a regular mistaken for a new guy!)
Any standard table or booth will do the trick. The point is it’s a place for first timers to go, a clearly marked destination. Then, if they feel intimidated by mingling with groups of wandering strangers, they can visit your table and have a friendly chat with one or two greeters.
Successful welcome tables will provide the guest with a method for learning more. This may mean inviting them to join an email list or to attend a newcomers’ lunch. Having some follow-up will show them that your church is a community.
In the cyber world you can’t exactly smile at a new friend or keep eye-contact. However, installing an interactive function at the bottom right-hand corner of your website can be a strong substitute.
Ideally, this feature would allow web visitors to ask questions and learn more about your church, ministry, or community.
Sharing Past Sermons and Messages
Something quite obvious about new guests is that they’re new. This means they likely haven’t heard your pastor’s previous messages before or they weren’t there for the first six parts of his or her seven part sermon series.
Inviting newcomers to listen to or watch recordings, podcasts, or videos of past lessons and sermons can be an excellent way to further engage them, help them get up to speed, and ultimately invite them into your community.
When your church creates graphics, social media posts, flyers, and email blasts for upcoming events, do they consider if the event is advertised as guest and newcomer friendly?
- Try adding ‘Newcomers Welcome’ or ‘Bring a Friend’ to any open-event messaging (it seems simple, but writing it could be the deciding factor for an interested guest)
- If events are part of a series, add ways for newcomers to catch up and join in
- If clubs or events require specific material to participate (i.e. book clubs or Bible studies), provide the links to obtaining those resources
Be creative when welcoming newcomers. Think about the things in your community that may be of specific interest to them and find ways to connect them.