Words matter. What you say and when you say something matter a great deal. What you say as a person, leader or a church reveals your values.
At Revolution Church, we have always called those who visit our church “guests.” They aren’t visitors.
A visitor is someone you expect to not come back. A guest is someone you prepare for. By calling them guests, we are seeking to communicate, we have thought about you, we expected you to come and we thought through your experience from start to finish.
Here are some practical things we do for guests:
- Have friendly faces outside who say, “hi.” This goes a long way. Telling someone, “We’re glad to see you” communicates so much.
- Create a culture of “showing” not “pointing. If a guests looks lost or wants to know where a bathroom is, don’t point and say, “It’s down there on the left.” Walk them to where they need to go, show them.
- Have signs. This is crucial. People don’t know where things are. Our philosophy has been, when you think you have enough signs make more. This helps guests to move through your church unnoticed if they choose to do so. You should have signs that tell people where to park, where the front door is (this isn’t always obvious at a church), where bathrooms are, where kids go and where the auditorium is.
- No guest parking. Guest parking sounds nice, give guests the front row. The problem is that it identifies people as guests. Most guests don’t want that. Make parking as easy and painless as possible.
- Make guest sign-in for kids fast and secure. When parents drop their kids off, they are dropping off their most precious possession. This is more nerve wracking than most churches realize. It should be secure. They should have to fill something out, get a badge that enables only them to get their child (no tag, no pick-up), leaders in the kids area should have shirts, vests, badges, something that identifies them as workers. We do this sign-in online as well to ensure speed for guests if they choose.
- Call them guests. This is self explanatory, but this communicates who you think they are and you preparedness for them.
- Tell them why you do what you do. Where else do you stand and sing with a group of people songs you don’t know? Where else do you listen to a 30-60 minute message without moving? Communion? Prayer? Announcements? All these things can be foreign to people. Simply explain what you are doing and why you do it. Tell them how long the service will be and stick to that. If you preach through books of the Bible, tell them why you do that. A simple line, “We’re going to sing songs to God that we believe to be true about him.” Or, “At Revolution, we love to preach through books of the Bible as we believe the Bible is true and authoritative for our lives.” Things like this also remind regulars why you do what you do.
- Have clear next steps. If your service is step 1, what is step 2? What should they do? How do they get more involved? Make this obvious.
- Let them identify themselves in their time. Let them tell you who they are when they want. Don’t give them a visitor badge or a nametag, don’t make them stand up. When they are ready, they’ll tell you they are there.
- Speak to them, let them know you know they are there and expected them. Saying things like, “You may be new” or, “You might be here today and you don’t know why you are or you might have been drug here” or, “You might be here and aren’t sure you believe in Jesus.” This says, “I’ve thought about you, this message is for you. I’m going to speak to where you are.” This also tells your regulars, it is safe to bring friends here.
- Give them something. People think churches want something from them, money, time, etc. At the end of our service, we tell guests that on a table in the lobby is a table with gifts on it. Those are for them. No one is standing next to it making sure only guests take it or to pounce on a guest and introduce themselves. They can walk by, grab a gift and leave if they choose to.
- Invite them back. Tell everyone, “We’d love to see you next Sunday.” Invite them back. You do this with guests when they come over, you talk about when you are getting together again.
What things do you do at your church to welcome guests and create a welcoming culture?