Below are snippets from chapter 2 of my ebook: Church Greeters 101.
Do people remember this about visiting your church?
One night over dinner, I heard this story firsthand from a Hispanic immigrant who had experienced the transforming grace of Christ. He had begun looking for a church for his family. He told me:
I had only been a Christian for six months. We moved from [another city] and began to look for a Spanish language church. I didn’t find any for a few weeks, so my wife and I decided to attend an English language congregation.
We arrived and sat down in the pews, clearly the stranger. We didn’t speak English at the time, so we really had no clue as to what was happening. When the service was over, all the people began leaving.
We stood around, and guess what? No one talked to us.
The only thing my friend only remembers about that church six years later is that no one said hello.
Imagine your experience if you walked into a church for the first time and no one greeted you.
If you were the first time visitor, imagine no one answering your questions about where is the rest room, or where do you take your children. Imagine no one to point out who to talk to with the spiritual need that drew you to church today. Imagine the feeling of noticing the congregation seems to ignore you.
If you were a regular attender or member, imagine that you have had a really awful week. Imagine no one is at the door to even notice the burden you carry and offer to pray with you. Imagine that no one even notices that your countenance that suggests you have come to church with a need.
Imagine for a moment that a life crisis has hit and you have not been physically or emotionally able to attend church for a few weeks. Imagine that no one notices that you have been ‘missing.’
Imagine walking into such a church. It would feel cold. You would feel out of place, and you would likely feel that no one cares. If this was your first visit, you would not likely return for a second or third time.
Before any worship service begins, the work of your effective greeters helps your first time visitors and members feel welcome into the house of God.
Some churches I’ve consulted with can’t seem to recruit enough volunteers, people drop out after one or two weeks, some don’t ever want to do it again, and some church haven’t even started a greeting ministry. I hear stuff like
- I can’t find anyone to do it.
- There are not enough volunteers.
- I don’t know how to talk to a visitor.
- Getting volunteers to take the plunge.
- We don’t do it because it’s everyone’s job.
- People say yes, but don’t show up for duty.
- I’m afraid that we will mess up God’s work in someone’s life.
With all the challenges to recruiting and training greeters, we come to the question of why bother? Why put up with the organizational efforts and human resources it takes to manage such a challenge? Why spend hours of volunteer effort and energy to recruit, train, and equip greeters?
It’s not enough to say ‘we’ve always done it this way.’ In the last two churches I served, the ministry of greeters was an operating assumption. One can’t keep programs in perpetuity simply because you have been doing them. Churches should know why they have such programs and why they should continue to have hours of energy invested in recruiting, training, and developing a greeters and a greeting ministry.
No church wants to unintentionally give a visitor or member
a bad experience, nor feelings of being unwanted or unwelcomed.
No church wants to be rude
and hinder a family’s journey of faith to Christ.
The potential long reach of a hello
Here is one from a family who dropped out of church over 40 years ago because no one said hello:
Over a good meal one night with an irreligious married couple, we spoke of church life, faith, Christ, and other topics. They both attended church 3 times a week growing up, but once they married and relocated to another city, they quit going.
They hadn’t been to church regularly for nearly 40 years and faith is no longer important to them. Their children weren’t church goers and grew up without any real knowledge of the grace of God.
I asked, ‘Why did you stop going?’
“When we were newly married,” they replied, “we relocated hundreds of miles away from our home town, away from family, friends, and our support network.
“We visited a few churches of our brand and not one person said hello or took interest in us.”
Did you catch that? A generation of children grew up into adulthood in an irreligious household because the parents couldn’t find a church where they felt welcomed. One child became a Christian later in life, thanks to the saving grace of Christ.
Greeters have more impact than they think.
Greeters serve in quiet but vital roles. They make sure the church is ready for the service. They make sure to greet members and visitors and all the children as they arrive. Ushers help people to their seat and answer any last minute questions that visitors may have thought of.
Greeters and ushers may continue to serve during the worship service, helping the latecomers get situated, or even ministering to those who may have quietly stepped out into the hall to find some space.
As people leave the worship experience, greeters are there to give a final greeting and an invitation to return again.
First impressions are not about right doctrine, but about the emotional and relational experiences that a person has with your congregation.
Potential Spiritual Impact
I received this note in my email. The writer is a high school friend and refers to events nearly 20 years ago when she was forced to go to church as a very troubled teenager. She reflects on influences that helped her come to her own faith in Christ as an adult.
It started with my parents forcing me into the car and forcing me out of the car every single Sunday. I sat on the back table and didn’t participate or anything….really because I could NOT believe in something I couldn’t see.
Yet there was this one guy who kept coming up, every single week, to say hi, give me a hug, etc…..and even though I thought it was strange, I thought there must be something at work here…so I started listening more….then I actually started praying….then I actually started looking forward to the youth group and the fellowship with my peers. . .
Then I started seeing people who really believed and were not only believers, but were willing to share, no matter how long it took, with someone totally outside the sphere of believers….totally awesome….so……thank you.
Did you notice the power of a greeter in her story and journey to faith? She experienced a greeting and kindness that eventually influenced her into finding faith in Christ.