Intersection of Life and Faith

10 Simple (but Meaningful) Ways to Welcome First-Time Church Guests

  • Meg Bucher Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
10 Simple (but Meaningful) Ways to Welcome First-Time Church Guests

Whether walking into a giant atrium or a small-town sanctuary, first-time visitors feel every eye is on them as they walk into Sunday service. More than just a call to worship God for all of our blessings, and a place to pray for His help and healing, church is something God tells us to do out of encouragement for each other.

“Let us consider how to inspire each other to greater love and to righteous deeds, not forgetting to gather as a community, as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other, especially as the day of His return approaches” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Even in a church full of gospel truth, a wrong first impression causes a weary soul to turn on their heels and back out to the parking lot. The Voice commentary of the above verses lends a great perspective on the importance of every soul called to church on Sunday being welcomed:

“The word translated ‘church’ in English Bibles literally means ‘assembly of the called’; it implies that members have said ‘yes’ to God’s call in their lives. We assemble because we are called into being by God Himself. Some people, for reasons only they know, choose to live their Christian faiths in isolation. When they do, they cut themselves off from the gifts, encouragement, and vitality of others. And perhaps, just as tragically, they deprive the church of the grace and life God has invested in them.”

Here are ten things to take notice of to ensure that guests to God’s house always feel welcome to come inside, as they are, because that’s where He meets us.

Photo credit: Unsplash

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    1. The Parking Lot

    Slide 1 of 10

    Volunteers to help direct traffic into church along busy roads or packed parking lots can be the first friendly gesture a timid visitor meets when gripping the steering wheel to turn in for the first time. If there are people outside to help with parking, opening doors and smiling faces make all the difference when someone is shaking at the possibility of entering the church. 

    Whether it be a mega Church parking lot or a street-side adjacent to the building, make sure there is ample room to park for the amount of expected guests. If space is lacking, consider asking local businesses adjacent to the church if it’s OK to borrow their spots on Sundays. Post signage that directs guests where to park. 

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/Jupiterimages

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    2. The Door

    Slide 2 of 10

    A shared smile with a weary parent, and a directive towards the coffee and where to drop their kids off can feel like the long awaited end to a marathon. Making it to the door, for a family, may consist of grit-toothed smiles through low-toned threats aimed at misbehaved children. Let’s face it—the mornings that we get ready to worship God will naturally alert our enemy to throw whatever he can at us to get us to turn around! 

    Swing open the church door and usher them in to the tune of the victory they have just won simply by entering the church. For singles or widows who are lonely, walking through those doors can be painful, full of memories or anxieties that we know nothing about. A smile and a handshake and a “welcome” means everything. 

    Photo credit: Unsplash 

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    3. A Place to Hang Their Hats and Coats

    Slide 3 of 10

    Once guests have made it to the door, a place to put their coats and hats can be extremely welcoming, especially in a cooler climate, change of season, or on a rainy day. A well placed and labeled spot to put wet umbrellas and snow-covered jackets makes sitting in service a lot more comfortable and little less drippy. 

    While it may seem like a simple gesture, considering the needs of the guests might make a  big difference to them. 

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    4. Following Directions

    Slide 4 of 10

    When coming to church for the first time, parents are concerned about how their kids are going to act. If you are a church that reserves a ministry and section of the church for children, be prepared for separation anxiety. Make it clear where they should go. Have volunteers ready to walk them from the front door to the sign in desk. Take the kids’ coats and hang them up for them as they sign in for the first time, and be ready to answer any questions without making them feel rushed or like they are holding up the line. 

    If the children sit in service with the adults, have some biblical materials or a children's guide on how to follow along with the service available for the kids to keep busy within the pews. Most of the time, kids don’t bother the adults around them, but the parents deserve a chance to breathe easy in God’s presence, and anything we can do to allow that to happen has a welcoming effect. 

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/BrianAJackson

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    5. Coffee

    Slide 5 of 10

    Our morning cup of coffee has become part of the way we express ourselves, and not allowing patrons to carry it with them into the sanctuary is a turn-off. Jesus just wants those He calls on Sunday to sit in His presence. It’s our job to make that experience as much a part of who they are as we can. Church shouldn’t feel foreign—Jesus doesn’t. He’s a relevant part of us, though He never changes. There are ways to adjust the formalities in the way we worship to the changes that we are all living in the midst of … without giving up biblical clarity or gospel truth. 

    A warm cup of coffee can prop an exhausted parent up, and give a nervous soul something to fidget with. Make a lot of it, and make sure it’s hot. 

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    6. The Next Set of Doors

    Slide 6 of 10

    In churches that are enormous and have a door to the sanctuary beyond the door to the outside, another set of smiling faces should be standing by them to welcome visitors. This way, those coming in for the first time will be greeted by positivity. If we express that we’re happy to have newcomers join our church family, even if only for one service, it’s likely that they’ll feel more welcome. 

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock/kk5hy

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    7. Takeaways

    Slide 7 of 10

    An effective way to welcome and reach someone is by handing them a simple square to scan, with text that proclaims the main take-away of the message they are about to receive. All else should be optional. Have prayer request forms visible to grab on the way in, and event information for those interested available on the way out … but for a visitor, the best chance at retaining their interest is by holding back on the paperwork. 

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    8. Seating

    Slide 8 of 10

    Especially in a dark sanctuary, there should be ushers with flashlights that whisk new visitors right to a seat. That will remove all worry about where to sit; especially if worship has already begun, or the crowd is already quiet, it takes a lot of anxiety off a new church goer to be seated, rather than feeling as if they are picking a seat in the high school cafeteria. 

    Photo credit: Pexels

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    9. Welcome

    Slide 9 of 10

    Pastors should always welcome new visitors to check in on their Smartphones, and tell them a little bit about the congregation they are sitting amongst. Pick one line that describes your church, and let that be an anthem of welcome. 

    Smartphones should be welcome in any church! There are Bible apps that people like to follow along with, and note taking apps that can store snippets of sermons. Stay relevant. Welcome technology. 

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock

  • 1. The Parking Lot

    10. The Thank You

    Slide 10 of 10

    In every church, big or small, there should be people at the door to thank everyone for visiting and wish them a blessed day. If the parking lot needed directing on the way in, it needs it on the way out. 

    Be there for that new visitor from beginning to end, but give the middle to God. Once they are in their seat and checked in, let Him take over. When they get up to leave, escort them out with smiles and gladness. Most importantly, if we see a new face at church, our first instinct should be to pray for them! A prayer of thanks for bringing them through the doors, and a blessing for their day and life thereafter. 

    Photo credit: ©Thinkstock

    Meg encourages others to seek Him first through her life as a stay-at-home mom, career as a freelance writer, teaching Emotimoms Weekly Bible Study, and leading the kids worship teams at her local church. She resides in a small, Northern lake town with her husband of ten years, two daughters, and their Goldendoodle. Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ on her blog, http://sunnyand80.org.