Personal Ministries Resources

10 Ways to Welcome Newcomers

by Pr Robert Steed

1. Directions
Being present in a town's street directory, newspaper, phone book and on the information locality map conveys to potential newcomers that your church has a real interest in new people. Informing your community of where you are not only gives direction to your locality, but conveys a message of welcome.

2. Church Sign
Having a church sign representative of who we are and why we exist is important in informing newcomers. The sign should not only reflect regular events, but also special events that visitors will feel less conspicuous in attending.

3. Car Park
Knowing where to park is the first concern of newcomers. They want to be as anonymous as possible. Churches that are welcoming of newcomers give priority to visitor/guest parking.

Visitor/guest parking allotments need to be located closest to the church, where parking attendants are able to identify and welcome newcomers. Parking attendants need to be gentle, non-intrusive and aware that newcomers want to get the car parked without embarrassment.

Designated visitor/guest parking near the entrance of the church is helpful in keeping before the regular members the priority of inviting friends and contacts to their church.

4. Signs to Venues
Signs allow visitors to move easily without fuss to the place they need to go. Signs inform the visitor that this church welcomes not only long-term members, but also visitors.

5. Entrance
The most significant impression a first-timer experiences is what happens when they enter the facility. You have about 15 minutes to make a good first impression. The entrance should be very obvious and spacious. There needs to be enough room for them to be welcomed without being the centre of attention.

6. Greeters
An appropriate welcome from the greeter is crucial for establishing an inviting relationship between the church and newcomer. Greeters need to be warm, outgoing people who enjoy meeting new people. They must be able to keep a balance between being friendly, but not intrusive. The greeter is the most significant person that newcomers meet on their first visit to the church. Greeters should introduce newcomers to other members. Sabbath School class leaders should be primed to invite newcomers into their class.

7. Visitor Information
Do we want people to join our fellowship? If we do, we need to inform them of what it is that we have to offer. An information pack is a tangible "gift" that not only informs, but also invites. The information pack should include church services, ministries and photos of key people.

8. Same-day contact
Newcomers arrive at church because they are needing to make changes in their lives. They have thought long and hard about going to church -
"What will it be like?"
"Will we fit in?"
"Will the church make a difference in meeting the needs we currently have?"
The church needs to respond in a sensitive but non-intrusive manner.

Research from North America tells us that if follow-up of first-time visitors occurs -

within 24 hours, there is an 85 per cent chance they will return;
made within 72 hours there is a 60 per cent return;
and 7 days later 15 per cent return.
Send the pastor to do the follow-up and all results are cut by half. Follow-up can be in the form of a free offer – book, video, Bible-study guides, Pathfinder information etc, delivered to the door with the car running in the driveway.

9. Four new friendships
When newcomers come among us we need to find ways to build at least four new friendships within the first four weeks of attendance. People do not want to join a friendly church, but one where they can make genuine friends. Identify who in your church has the gift of hospitality and develop a method by which greeters can introduce them to newcomers.

10. Small-group connection
All current research concerning church growth and vitality identify groups ministry as the most important. Newcomers should be invited to participate in a home group and Sabbath school class as soon as possible. It is easier for a new comer to join a new group than one that has been established for a long time.

Churches need to constantly bring new groups into being through cell division. Newcomers need to be nurtured by a group within the congregation that acts like a spiritual family.