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 . . .
- “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.
- “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.
- “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!
- “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.
- “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.).
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.
- “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.