Trying out a new church can be overwhelming. This is especially true when you have no idea what to expect and don't know a single soul in the building. This has led to some people avoiding church altogether, for fear of the unknown or fear of being judged. It can be a big step for many people to step into a church for the first time. For this reason, you want them to feel welcome and accepted. Here are some things you can do to help people feel like they have come to the right place.
Perhaps the very hardest part (other than deciding to go) about trying a new church is walking through the doors. Being there to greet them can help a lot. You don't want to overwhelm them, but you also want them to have a good idea of where they need to go or what they need to do. When you greet them, you should:
Introduce yourself. If they have children, show them the check in process. Sit with them at church if they seem unsure that they belong.
While you should greet them shortly after they walk through the door, try not to smother them. You don't want them to feel like you are too overbearing or make them feel uncomfortable. The balance can be difficult to find, but picking up on their social cues can help figure out how much assistance they are looking for.
Have a Welcoming Table
Having a table set up for first-time visitors can be incredibly helpful. This is especially true for larger churches. The table can have information about the church and also can provide a person to show the new family or individual around the church, introduce them to the pastors, and perhaps give them a little gift to welcome them. Many churches that have a welcoming table include a little bit of chocolate or a goody bag as a way of thanking people for coming. If you want to greet someone but aren't sure whether or not they are actually new, then the welcoming table can be a great way to figure out who is looking for some help.
Put Info on Your Website
These days, the majority of people will check out your website before deciding to try your church. Having a "Frequently Asked Questions" section can help answer some first-time visitors' questions. You might include things like information about the children's program, how long the service is, service times, and what they should wear. You might also give a little bit of information on what kind of worship they can expect. Including a few podcasts of recent messages can help the potential visitors decide whether this is a place they would like to try. Keep your information up to date on the website so it remains relevant.
After the church experience is over, it's a good idea to follow up. Give your new visitors a card to fill out with their email and/or mailing address. Send a follow-up note thanking them for coming and inviting them back. These notes can especially mean a lot if they come from a pastor. You might even invite them to join you for coffee or a lunch date so they can learn more about your church or your beliefs. Following up is an excellent way to show people you care and want them to come back.
In the end, some things are out of your control when it comes to whether or not someone returns to your church. If your beliefs are slightly different, the location of your church is too far, or they feel the sermons are too long, there's not a lot you can do. However, these steps will help ensure people feel welcome and included when they come to your church.