12 Ways Churches “Welcome Guests”

This post is as much a survey as it is a report. Over the last decade, our church consulting “spies” have reported numerous ways they are “recognized” as guests in a worship service. Below is a list of twelve of those ways. Help us add to this list by (1) telling us your experience, and (2) inviting others to give their input as well. I’m especially interested in hearing some positive approaches. Let’s help churches do this task better.

By the way, I wish I were making up many of these . . .

  1. “If you’re a guest, please raise your hand.” Needless to say, even some of our spies were uncomfortable taking this step – primarily because they didn’t know what would come next.
  2. “Please stand right where you are.” Even fewer of our spies followed this direction. We doubt many people ever did. Nor did they come back to that church, we suspect.   
  3. “We invite you to join us in the staff reception room right after the service.” More of our spies were open to this option. Others might have been, except that no one ever told them how to get to the staff reception room!
  4. “Please fill out the guest card in the bulletin and ________________.” The blank line is to fill in what a church told our spies to do with the card. Some gave no direction. Others said to put the card in the offering plate but gave no indication when the plate would be passed. Too few gave clear, helpful directions.
  5. “Please complete your card and take it to the Welcome Center in the foyer.” That invitation would be more helpful if the announcement also gave precise directions to the Welcome Center. Additionally, we’ve sometimes employed spies who had never heard of a “foyer” (or a “narthex” or a “parlor,” etc.).
  6. “Let’s all shake hands, and be sure to greet someone you don’t know.” The difficulties with this approach are several. First, church folks sometimes know so few people that they’re embarrassed to ask others’ names. Second, most of us naturally gravitate to people we know. Third, this approach asks guests (who usually know VERY FEW people) to do the same. Fourth, nobody secures follow up information.
  7. “Guests, please remain seated, and church family, let’s stand together.” Frankly, this approach puts no less a spotlight on the guest than does a call to stand. In fact, it might be worse because now the “church family” must look around each other to find any guests. 
  8. “There is a pad at the end of each row. Please pass it down the row, sign it, and be sure to greet the persons next to you at some point.” This approach is actually the one our spies have most appreciated. Everyone fills out the pad, so no one is singled out. Plus, there is no urgency to complete the information before an offering plate comes by.
  9. “If you’re a church member and a guest is with you today, please stand and introduce your guest.” I understand this approach, as it attempts to introduce guests without embarrassing them. Our spies, though, usually are alone. Thus, others just look at them nervously because no one is there to introduce them.
  10. “It looks like I see some people here today I don’t know. Would you [looking straight at our spy] please tell us who you are?” I doubt I need to say much about this one . . . except that it kind of makes “spying” a bit more difficult.smiley
  11. “Hug someone you don’t know to welcome them . . . maybe even give them a shoulder massage.” This is why we tell our spies they can draw the lines where they want. No matter how friendly your church is, no guest should be placed in such a position.
  12. “Let’s not acknowledge we have guests here at all today.” Of course, no church has ever said that line to our spies. They’ve just acted that way by doing nothing. 

Please help us here. Again, I’d love to hear some great ways to do this task.


  • Craig says:

    At our small international church we have a 5-minute fellowship time after the music and just before preaching. During that time some of our regulars are tasked with meeting any new folks and asking them to fill out an info card. The place buzzes with conversation and having coffee and some donuts makes the time informal and helps us build relationships; people normally get right back to their seats when called back by the speaker.

  • John says:

    I greet guests during the service and ask them to fill out a guest card. I tell them we will not just show up at your house but would like to send a card or email. We then invite them to the church lobby after the service for a gift bag, whether they fill out the card or not. The gift bag has general info but also a free t-shirt from our annual car show.

  • mcassity4 says:

    As pastor I welcome all (somewhere near beginning of service) and point attention to guest card, prayer request card and decision/comment card in pew racks. Then give instruction to place cards in offering plate which is passed at the end of service. I also give clear instructions as to what will be done with those cards and how we will respond. At end of service before I pray I invite those guests who want to meet me to do so at a designated area. seems to work pretty good.

  • Jim Winning says:

    I visited a church where everyone was given a response card to fill, it didn’t single out visitors and reminded everyone about “next steps”

  • Slimvictory says:

    We have recently begun a new way to welcome guests and get their info card. Our pastor points out the card strip that is attached to the bulletin. He asks guests to fill it out, so we can send them a welcome letter and some info about our church. Pointing to the door that leads to our welcome table (that’s what we call it), he tells guests to stop by there and drop off their card after the service, and that there’ll be someone to give them a gift from our church. We have a man and a woman available to greet folks who stop by. It’s always good to have two, so guests won’t have to wait to be welcomed. In addition to a letter from the staff, guests receive a handmade greeting card and welcome message from a member.

  • Jo says:

    We have a welcome desk. When a visitor enters our church, we have a greeter that meets them, introduces themselves and invites them to our visitor desk to sign in. We ask if we can put a name tag on them and then guide them to our sanctuary. Once in worship, our Pastor acknowledges them by name and we share how they are welcome at our church and their coming to visit us has made our worship better. After service we have a person that goes up to them and invites them to fellowship. The following Monday, our pastor and membership team write notes to the visitor to thank them for coming and hope they will come back to visit. We believe in showing extravagant hospitality.

  • Joby says:

    In our church, after the singing at the start and during the announcements before the message we ask our ushers to come forward then tell our guests that we have a special gift we’d like to give them. As the ushers go down the aisles pls just get their attention by waving at them and they will give you this gift.

    Inside the gift is a card for them to fill out their info (name, contact no.) there is also a card for coffee at the welcome lounge with snacks. Will also fill the gift bag with church info, and a DVD with inspiring videos.

    We announce that we have a Welcome Guest Lounge in the 4th flr in front of the elevators and would like to meet them and welcome them.

  • Mac says:

    I have been a member of a church, and visited a church, that does something quite similar to Joby’s church. Any guests are invited to stand (along wth the members who invited them, if they were invited) and introduce themselves. (This is not necessarily comfortable for those who have come alone!) At that point, volunteer members present them with a ‘goodie’ bag which includes some general information, treats, and handouts. All guests, whether they have stood or not, are invited to the fellowship hall for coffee and bagels after the service. The trick is to make sure they are ‘seen’ and welcomed there, also. Name tags can help, like a different color for guests. Or, inviting guests to use ‘special’ mugs, again like a special color, can additionally help single them out.

  • I searched for several years to find a good fitting church home – so I have witnessed plenty of these! One that took me most by surprise was when we attended a new church – we filled out the pad a paper that asked for our names & address – we identified ourselves by check marking the box that reads “looking for a church home” (or whatever verbiage was used). After church was over I don’t remember being approached by anyone other than a few polite “good morning”s. However, things took an interesting turn when we got home. The church greeting committee found our names & address from the pad & actually showed up at our door with baked goods in hand. This might sound lovely to some people, but we found it slightly stalkerish and uncomfortable. When someone bakes you a pie and shows up at your door, you feel obligated to invite them in. And while one might assume that inviting a stranger into their home where their children sleep would be safe enough…after all these are “church people”, one just cannot tell these days. I just totally understand their thought process & their attempt to not single us out or overwhelm us with a small mob of well meaning church folks. Showing uannounced & uninvited was not deemed favorable to us

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