Importance of Hospitality and First-Time Visitors
When we were ministering in Rhode Island, every Sunday we would have at least 20 people for dinner after church. I would always prepare enough food for extra people knowing that there might be a first-time visitor, a new convert, or a discouraged person who just needed the fellowship.
It is funny that some churches put on their tracts “Friendliest Church in Town”, but when you attend their services, no one even acknowledges your presence. The members are all talking among themselves, while the visitors sit alone.
I was visiting with a lady this week and she told me that she had just recently visited a mega church. When she drove into the parking lot, a member greeted her and asked if she was visiting today or a member. The guest told the greeter that she was just visiting. The greeter handed the her a hanging card that read I Am Visiting Today. She was then told to place the card on her mirror, and the greeter directed this lady to parking places near the front door. These parking places had been set aside just for the visitors. This lady said, “I couldn’t believe it—cars everywhere, and I parked by the front door”. Wow! I think we can all take a lesson from this. First-time visitors should be made to feel special when they attend our churches.
We were visiting a church in the Northwest, and the pastor told the first-time visitors during announcements, “Please meet me on the outdoor porch after services because I have a gift for you”. When he met with them, he would give them a welcome packet with a small gift as a token of his appreciation for their first-time visit.
We visited another church in Virginia that included a beautiful CD with the various church ministries in their welcome packet.
If you are a church member and a first-time visitor comes into your church, invite him to lunch. If the visitor just moved to the area, give him your name and contact information and offer your assistance while he is getting accustomed to the area.
I remember the Sunday that I was a first-time visitor. I was a teenager and living a very wicked life. I had never been in a Baptist church, and I was pretty nervous. I sure wasn’t dressed like the other women! My brother and his wife had just been saved a short time and kept asking me to go to church with them. That Sunday morning I attended services with them; basically just to get my brother off my back. I thought, “If I go this one time—I will never have to go again.” That Sunday during the invitation, I was under deep conviction. My heart was beating so hard that I thought it would explode. I determined in my mind, “I’m not going forward—I would be too embarrassed”. But God had another plan for me. A godly deacon just happened to be sitting directly behind me. He tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “Honey, if you want to go forward, my wife will go with you.” Those words were all I needed! With tears streaming down my cheeks, I went forward and gloriously received Christ as my Savior. Sometimes I think about that Sunday. “Would I be saved today if that kind deacon had not reached out to this first-time visitor?” Only the Lord knows.
Idea for a Visitor’s Welcome Center
Make your welcome center readily accessible for visitors. It is best to place it near the entrance to the church. Have someone who is friendly, cheerful, and out-going work behind the desk of your center. Have a greeter stand near the center to direct visitors and their children to various classes.
Items needed for welcome center:
Welcome gifts or bags for first-time visitors. Instruct the visitor to fill out the visitor’s card and place it in the offering.
Brochures describing Sunday school classes, church projects, and current missionary projects.
CDs of outstanding sermons which might be a blessing to visitors and members.
Colorful and easy to read maps and directions to your facilities and classes.
Clear directional signs to the various classes.
If your church is located in a neighborhood with a different ethnic group of people, don’t forget to use their language for directions.