Slideshow image

I don’t know about you, but I often decide if I’ll come back to a certain place before I finish my time there. Maybe it’s a business, like a store or a service centre, or maybe it’s a restaurant. I decide if I’ll be back based on how I feel when I’m there. Am I welcomed and valued? Do I feel at ease? Do I see myself returning?

Church newcomers go through a similar process. They often decide quickly about whether they’ll be back. Much of it depends on how they feel when they are with the church for the first time.

Remember, newcomers to church notice a lot more than a regular attendee. Let’s make them feel welcome and comfortable. Here are some simple ways you can make your church welcoming, especially with your words.

1. “I’m glad we could be together”

This kind of language is helpful because it communicates inclusion. We often use language that communicates “us” and “them,” saying things like “I’m glad you could join us” or “How did you hear about us?” This two-group language communicates that newcomers aren’t part of the community. Instead, by using words that describe togetherness, you reduce the perceived distance and division.

2. Clear signage and instructions

Think about FAQ’s — frequently asked questions — that newcomers have. For example:

  • Where do I park?
  • What happens with children in worship?
  • Do I stand or sit during this part of the service?
  • Where do I find the toilets?

Newcomers already feel out of place. Feeling like they don’t know what to do makes it even harder. Let’s reduce the uneasiness by having clear signage in lines of sight, clear announcements from up front, and clear, printed instructions in their hands.

3. Use their names

When you learn a newcomers’ names, use them immediately in subsequent conversations to help them be more at ease (and to help you remember their names). No longer anonymous, they can feel known in an unfamiliar place. Make an effort to insert a person’s name in your conversation.

  • “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Nancy!”
  • “So, Fred, do you live nearby?”
  • “How old are your children, Tom?”

Businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie taught that calling someone by name is paying them a subtle but effective compliment. It shows that you are interested in knowing them. Using their name can go a long way to helping a church newcomer feel at home.

4. “Let me walk with you over there”

This extra effort makes a big difference in a large retail store, and the same goes for churches. Instead of pointing to the restrooms or the children’s ministry, accompany them to make sure they find it. If you aren’t able to walk with them yourself, grab a friendly person to do it. It’ll give your newcomer peace of mind and an opportunity for a quick conversation.

Being welcoming doesn’t always come naturally, especially if you’ve been a member of your church community for a long time. As we make efforts to put in habits of hospitality, let’s pray that God would transform our hearts to welcome and include those who are unfamiliar in our churches.