by Dennis Gunnarson.

Whether someone is a Beauty or the Beast, they should feel welcome at church. That is why “Be Our Guest” is a core value of our congregation. We believe customer service is everything when it comes to attracting the community around us.

The welcome should start as soon as guests pull into your parking lot. They should have prime parking marked by clear signage. It would be good to have greeters even in the parking lot, along with greeters at the building entrance, people who can give guests a tour of areas they will need to know (for example, children’s ministries, information center, visitor reception area, restrooms, the main worship center) as well as ushers who can help them find a good seat.

During the service, it’s good to mention your guest center/visitor reception area where visitors can meet with key staff afterward, receive a gift, and get answers to their questions about the church and its ministries. At the guest center, greet them at the entrance, help them find a seat or a place to stand, and give them something to do while they wait. Table hosts can make a big difference in keeping guests comfortable as well as getting them coffee, tea, juice and finger food. The table host can also collect personal information, give them a gift, and provide them with information to take home.

Pictures that give guests a sense of who you are and your history are also helpful. We have our values and mission statement all over the walls of our entrance, which we get comments on all the time.

Having a coordinator who oversees the activities of the guest area will assure that visitors have a good experience. No matter what you do, make sure your team meets or exceeds what people have been led to expect. If not, they may leave feeling that they were not good enough for your church. My family and I have attended churches whose pastors invited the regular attendees to turn around and welcome guests-and no one responded to us. That’s a huge strike against a church.

Begin connecting guests with church representatives they might want to know over the long term. However, any guest who signals a desire to stay in the shadows should be granted that right. They can always visit the guest center when they feel ready.

A follow-up letter from the senior pastor should be sent by Tuesday. A follow-up call or visit from a pastor or reliable ministry leader should happen before the next Sunday.

Whatever you do, keep the right balance. You can smother a guest and scare them away, or you can create an expectation without living up to it. No matter what you do, be genuine and loving.

Dennis Gunnarson is associate pastor at Church for All Nations, Tacoma, Washington.

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