|Children's drawings, like this one of a visitor and a cross on Easter morning, can warm the hearts of newcomers and make them feel comfortable. Drawing by Jake Cummings, courtesy of United Methodist Communications.|
I remember slipping in the back of a church and settling into the last pew during my first semester at college. I planned on slipping right back on out at the end when a short, older man in front of me turned around after the last hymn. “You have such a beautiful voice,” he said. “Please come sing in our choir – we need young people.”
I wound up singing there my entire college career and joining a family I would be loath to leave when it came time to graduate and head back home.
It was not the usual welcoming technique and I guess not everyone who visits a church is a voice minor, but it proves one thing – genuine acceptance and hospitality are difficult to resist. I felt accepted and I felt needed. Maybe that’s what I needed miles away from home.
Here are some of the best tips from our articles and research with links to more resources. We hope you have a wonderful and inspired Easter.
Prepare greeters and ushers with pointers
Don’t assume even the most enthusiastic church member knows the most effective ways to welcome newcomers. Shaking hands and smiling are always appropriate. Hugging a stranger or getting caught in lengthy conversations while someone else is waiting to ask a question can be off-putting. A case in point and the reason that I used “short” as a descriptor for the man in my college church is that I am very tall and he was kind enough to not point that out.
From “Guidelines for Greeters” to “Guidelines for Ushers,” our article, “7 Practical Elements of Welcoming,” lists many resources for being prepared. Why not create your own checklist to print on a card and/or email to prospective ushers including appropriate things to say?
It’s a sign
Visible, clear and concise signs can help visitors find parking, entrances, bathrooms, community areas, programs, pastors’ offices and generally feel less “lost.” Here is a checklist of comfort that has more ideas about first appearances and providing information.
Take our ideas as a starting point and make your own list of items to examine as a reminder (signs, bulletin boards, bathrooms, groups). You could also make a handy printed “checklist card” for seasonal ideas and activities. A “Welcome Visitors” sign, created by children or folks in your congregation, might go a long way toward creating a sense of hospitality.
To read more tips, click here.
– Laurens Glass is managing editor for UMCOM.org, a service of United Methodist Communications.