by Chuck Lawless
The church where my wife and I attend, Restoration Church in Wake Forest, North Carolina, does a great job greeting us as we arrive at our worship location. Our leaders have done their homework and have recognized the importance of making positive first impressions.
Many people recognize the importance of having trained greeters at the doors when guests arrive. I agree, but I also think there are several other places to use greeters:
1. In the parking lot near each entrance. Station greeters as near to each parking lot entrance as possible. They may also direct traffic, but more importantly, they welcome worshippers as they arrive. The first face a guest (or member, for that matter) sees should be an enthusiastic one.
2. Throughout the parking lot. Well-identified greeters can answer questions, assist those who need help, provide umbrellas when needed, and simply be another friendly face for those arriving.
3. At each entrance door. Most churches have a main entrance, but greeters should be at any door folks may enter. Unless directed otherwise by signs or parking lot greeters, anyone might enter at a less-frequented door—and everyone deserves a greeting.
4. At the welcome center. This one surely seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve visited churches with no one at the welcome center. Sometimes that’s because the welcome center attendant is escorting a guest somewhere, but that simply means the welcome center needs more workers. At least one greeter should always be at the welcome center.
5. At the entrance to the worship center. Again, churches often have ushers or others at the doors to distribute worship guides or bulletins. That’s a great start, but sometimes the number of people entering is more than the ushers alone can greet. I encourage churches to have others there simply to welcome folks as they enter to worship.
6. Throughout the worship center. More often than not, the “secret shoppers” we send on church consultations report that no one speaks to them prior to the service. One way to address this issue is to have assigned greeters in each section of the worship center. They probably sit in the same area every Sunday anyway, so why not give them a greeting assignment?
7. At each major intersection in the church facility. The larger the facility is, the more important these greeters can be. At any point where someone may get turned around, confused, or lost, greeters can be both a welcoming face and a necessary guide. At the entrance of children’s ministry sections, they can also double as a security force to help protect the children as needed.
8. In each small group gathering. We hope all small group members will greet everyone else, but experience tells us otherwise. Whether the group is an on-campus gathering like Sunday school or an off-campus meeting like a life group, intentional greeters are important. No one is missed if someone is prepared to greet everyone.
9. At every churchwide fellowship. Sure, the church family knows one another (we think), but that doesn’t mean everyone feels welcomed at the fellowship event. A simple “hello” and a genuine “we’re glad you’re here” can mean a lot to that lonely, hurting church member.
10. At the doors and in the parking lot at the end of the worship service. I’ve attended churches with greeters before the service, but not many with greeters in place afterward. Why not have folks ready to encourage and challenge others as they leave to apply what they’ve learned?
11. On the church website. Enlist some energetic greeters to post an invitation to church-searchers who check out your website. That way, you greet your guests before they come, when they come, and as they go out to serve.
Greeters should still be screened and trained, but the greeter role provides opportunities for many members to be involved. Involve more people intentionally, and your church will be a friendlier place.
CHUCK LAWLESS (@Clawlessjr) is professor of evangelism and missions and dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.