Our church had a strange problem: we had a ton of visitors. Many of them would pop in during the liturgy, and then they were gone in a flash when it was time for coffee hour.
“Did you see that new family that came today?” We’d overhear other parishioners asking each other. “Their kids were the same age as ours. I was hoping they would stay for coffee hour, but they were gone before we could say hi to them.”
So, we came up with a solution: the church welcoming committee. Since we started it, we’ve met and welcomed numerous visitors face-to-face who would otherwise have left without anyone knowing. Just recently, we had a baby shower for some new members of our church.
Here’s how we did it:
One church member led it up and gathered names by email of everyone who was interested in helping out. Then, they set up a schedule for members to rotate who welcomed each Sunday. After that, it was pretty simple. The schedule was emailed out and just after communion, the welcoming committee members would stand near the exit and introduce themselves to the visitors. We also got their names and contact information so we could let them know about different activities in the church, and so our priest could have a chance to welcome them.
After the few Sundays that my husband and I have volunteered to welcome at church, we have met people we now smile and wave at after church. Sometimes, we sit together at coffee hour. The point is, these people feel welcome and they aren’t strangers anymore. Before the welcoming committee, a lot of the visitors were not coming back. My guess is it’s because they weren’t making connections.
I’ll admit, it’s a little out of my comfort zone to talk with people I don’t know. Still, it’s worth it. I was once a visitor, and I know how it feels to walk into a church where everyone seems to know each other. Coffee hour can be even more intimidating when people tend to shuffle off into regular groups they’re used to being with every Sunday.
How are you welcoming your visitors in your church? It might be time to start your own welcoming committee.
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