A Frequent SETX Church Guest Shares Ideas on Greeting Visitors

Greeting Church Visitors

Notes from a Golden Triangle Church Visitor

SETXChurchGuide.com Guest Commentary by Jessica Fant.

Editor’s Note: One Southeast Texas church goer shares her thoughts on visiting Southeast Texas churches with the hope that churches continue to evaluate how best to greet new visitors.

Pastors welcoming committees, and greeters, all do their best to welcome new visitors to our Southeast Texas churches.

Many are doing it without having been a visitor in a very long time.

If one of the above – pastor, welcoming committee, greeter – describes your current role within a Southeast Texas church, this article is directed to you. I’m a visitor of many Southeast Texas churches and while I understand everyone absolutely means well, often the greeting I receive is “too much”.

When is the last time you were a church visitor? How long has it been since you made a first visit to a church where you did not know anyone?

If it’s been a while, I challenge you to pick a church in the SETX area, maybe even outside your denomination to “visit”.

Attend the Sunday school class or Bible study available to you as well, not just the service. It is human nature to quickly grow accustomed to the norms and rituals at our “home” place of worship.  During your visit, be very cognizant about how you feel as a visitor.  What does this church do to welcome visitors that you like.  What does the church do to welcome visitors that you don’t like? What could they have done to make you feel more comfortable?

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After church, take lunch at local eatery and discuss with your spouse or family how your experience went.

I have visited many, many Southeast Texas churches – my dad, a bi-vocational music minister, was often times a guest revivalist, guest singer or interim music minister. This experience gave me the opportunity to experience the love of church people as well as the thoughtlessness of others within the Body of Christ.

Most churches are wonderful after the initial greeting, but for me, that initial greeting was often overwhelming.

These are my notes, I hope they can be helpful in some way:

I do not like to stand up and introduce myself to a bunch of strangers.

I do not want to be singled out as a stranger among the crowd – most people I have asked do not like this extra attention either. My face glows red, my heart palpitates, my mind goes blank, and then I get embarrassed and frankly just plain uncomfortable. This, I feel, as an experienced visitor, a person who has been through the doors of the chapels and sanctuaries of so many. Which begs the questions, “and what of the inexperienced, of the person who isn’t used to the old men in sports coats shaking hands or the woman in pearls hugging everyone… even visitors.”

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I have talked to many people who never visited a church again if the “welcome” was too overwhelming.

Americans overwhelmingly are very private people. For Southeast Texas church goers this is especially true. We are plant workers, farmers, ranchers, loggers, oil field workers, all very independent jobs. They can easily be embarrassed when the spotlight turns on them. If you visit a church, it is nice to be noticed, perhaps, and you don’t want to be ignored.

Don’t get me wrong, hugs are good and most everyone needs one. But, how do you really feel when a stranger hugs you the minute you walk in the door?

How does a church congregation member make a stranger feel relaxed and easy without crossing the invisible barrier of awkwardness and discomfort?

It is tough. Greeting visitors so they feel welcomed but not overwhelmed is a fine line. However, if you can get the balance right, your visitors are more likely to become members.

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So, I beseech you brethren of the body of Christ… oh, ye, church of _____________  welcoming committee, greeters…

Go be a visitor, a real stranger in a Southeast Texas church. Research your home church’s welcoming practices and see if they can be improved.

How surface level is your greeting, how appropriate is your welcome?

Make your research a little more through and try a few different churches, rendezvous at a restaurant and review your results.

How does it feel to be a visitor?

Welcoming? Or overwhelming?

SETXChurchGuide.com editor’s note: Has your church recently reviewed their welcoming practices? We’d love to hear your results. Post them on our SETXChurchGuide.com Facebook or e-mail setxchurchguide@gmail.com

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