There were a few extra thoughts regarding guests, though, that I didn’t include earlier, but that are quite important. Most of these might seem quite basic to most, but I wanted to offer them up just in case.
So here are the top mistakes I think most churches make when dealing with first-time guests.
A visitor is someone that you were not expecting. Someone that you expect to stay just a little while and then go home. What’s a better word to use? Guests. A guest is someone that you were expecting and are happy to see. You clean up the house when you’re expecting a guest. You light the candles and vacuum well. You’re happy to see them.
And yet in how many churches do we often hear from the front, “I just want to welcome all the visitors for coming this morning. We’re so glad that you’re here.” I cringe every time I hear it. Sometimes people still say it in my churches.
This is a corporate culture issue that must be addressed from the top. To me those are four letter words and I make sure to address it whenever I hear it. And you must be foremost in addressing every person that comes as a guest yourself. If you don’t use the lingo no one else will.
You want to welcome people and make them feel comfortable. Doing the other stuff doesn’t normally work towards that.
The only place where I’m made to sign something when I come in are funerals and weddings. Think about it. Hopefully your place is not as somber as a funeral. And you’re probably not trying to make a theological statement about how we’re being married to Christ or something. So just don’t do it. Again, you’re putting them on the spot, and they have no idea what you’re going to do with that information. If I come to your church, I don’t want to be ushered over to where the guest book is to sign my life away. I don’t know what you’ll do with that information.
The only thing worse then ushering someone to sign in, is passing it down the pews for someone to sign in. This one is like an urban legend to me. I’ve heard about, but have never quite seen it. It must be completely weird, though.
Either use some kind of name tags for everyone or don’t use any at all. We were using hand-written name tags every week for everyone, but we started to tire of that. Now we’re not using anything in that arena.
I remember visiting a church one time. They did the first song, and then the pastor stepped up to the front and just started talking and giving announcements. I happened to know he was the pastor already, but it gave off a very uncomfortable and club-like vibe. We all know each other. If you don’t know what’s going on too bad for you.
If you as the pastor do the welcome in the church, you should introduce yourself as the pastor. Here’s what I say, “Good morning and welcome to the Carrollwood Seventh-day Adventist Church. We’re so glad that you’re here this morning. My name is Rodlie Ortiz, and I’m the pastor here….” People want to know who the leader is. When you’re in the hospital and different people are coming in, you want to know who the doctor is. Same thing with churches.
So what’s the best thing to use to get the information you need?
You’ve got to use some kind of response card that you encourage people to fill out. In this post I include an example of the response card we use. By doing that, you’re putting the power in their hands. We’d love for you to fill it out, and we’d love to be able to connect with you, but we’re not forcing you. It’s up to you. I give the details in the series linked above.
So those are just some of the main mistakes I often see churches using in regard to guests.