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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Church Planting Journal: Nine Keys to Welcoming Guests Well

By Dick Hardy
Oct. 16, 2011

Whether a church is years or days old, these ideas work ...

Welcoming guests to the church? Sounds like a simple question, but according to some folks it can be extremely complex. Doing it well has become an art form for many. For all, it is a journey of trial and error. It is one of continued growth, looking for more and better opportunities to reach guests who are looking for a church home and those who are looking for God.

Here are nine considerations in welcoming guests to the church that may be worth your review.

Create an atmosphere of genuineness.
New people to your church easily detect this. When people are genuine, your guests can sense it immediately. This becomes a real challenge particularly for churches that have been around awhile. People in the congregation, regardless of its size, get comfortable with one another, and the sense of truly “welcoming” new people to the family gets harder and harder the longer the church exists.

Develop a culture of evangelism.
Frankly, there are not many good reasons to encourage a guest to come back if you do not present the gospel in some way. Evangelism must be regularly inculcated into the thinking and the psyche of the Body. When members are regularly inviting their nonbelieving friends to church, then you are one step ahead of the game. That person already has a connecting point to the church. Develop a culture of evangelism, and guests will return because of relationship.

Develop a culture of giving.
If the people in the congregation are regularly in a mindset of giving, financially and otherwise, then they will be interested in giving to people who are looking for a church home, those looking for God, and those who have no clue what they are looking for. The stingier those already in the Body become, the less guests will feel welcomed. When people give of their time and resources, their arms are open. When arms are open, guests feel welcome.

Create a specific area for guests to meet leaders of the church after service.
It is vital that weekly opportunities be given for new friends of the church to gather information about the church and to find connecting points with people. That is best done right after services on the weekend. Remember, these guests are prospects for the church.

Give to the guest.
Whatever you do, make sure you provide the very best for your guests. Get the best coffee around and serve it to them. Have the highest quality of donuts or cinnamon rolls. Nothing but the best goodies for your guests. Do not communicate, “This is cheap,” or “We are too poor to give you something nice.”

Go visit your guest.
This one must be done right. In an age of high tech it is critical that the church maintain and accelerate high touch. In doing so, the church must be genuine and operate with no hidden agenda. Some churches take prepackaged popcorn, cookies, etc., to deliver to the guest at their home. No effort is made to enter the house. It is purely “Thank you for coming. This is our gift to you.” Write a nice note with the gift and be on your way. If the guests are not home, the person delivering the gift should simply leave it in a safe place at the door.

Create a Sunday welcome lunch.
For guests who have been around a few times, providing a Sunday lunch once a month affords them the opportunity to get one step closer to the church without a heavy commitment. You will get smaller attendance than your guest count per month, but those who attend will be the most interested in the church. This is a great place to meet the senior pastor and the team. The larger the church gets, the more important this becomes.

Have proper signage.
There is not much worse to a guest than to show up (if they can find the church) and not be able to navigate around the church. Make sure your signage makes sense to those on the outside, not just the folks on the inside.

Be consistent.
After you have demonstrated genuineness, make sure you are consistent. Some people may feel you are a very friendly church — others, that you are not. In some cases, the guests are inconsistent in their observations. It is critical that the church develop consistency in all the contacts with guests from the parking lot into the building, the lobby and the sanctuary. The same level of consistent friendliness and openness must pervade your church culture.


Whatever you do to welcome guests, be sure to keep your expectations in check. Guests are like you. They kick the tires and make sure they test everything before they gain a sense of trust. The church needs to earn that trust by paying attention to the considerations listed above and avoiding missteps. The church must genuinely want to minister to as many people as possible.

I commend you on your desire to be the best you can be in church hospitality. You would not have read this far otherwise. It is a journey well worth taking. People who do not know God today will someday rise up and say thank you for reaching to them through the gift of hospitality offered by your church.

See AGTV for a related interview with Dick Hardy.

DICK HARDY founded the Hardy Group in 2007, providing growth consulting for senior pastors and churches. He is the author of 27 Tough Questions Pastors Ask (Springfield, Mo.: Onward Books, 2010). For more information, visit

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