Here's a few tips to encourage the growth of your church community, not just in numbers, but in a sense of belonging
There's a lot of debate about what ‘good’ welcoming into church looks like. I've had friends say ‘I won’t go back, they weren’t very friendly... no one said hi’ and I’ve also heard ‘I won’t go back, they were way too clingy and people kept saying hi and it was overwhelming’. Some of my friends want to be completely left alone when they go to a new church for the first time, they sit alone and try to leave the second it’s over. Others want to feel welcome and included and are annoyed if people don’t say hi and they end up alone! This makes it really tricky to know what to do when welcoming newcomers, but I’ll attempt to write a list that is helpful.
1. Create context.
Recognise that each new person is different, they are coming into your church for the first time with different likes, dislikes, baggage, insecurities and expectations. There’s no way that you can know and tailor the welcoming experience for each person. However you can create a context for them to gravitate towards their comfort.
Having just one or two doorways where people are welcomed and ushered through doesn’t force the introvert to converse or say ‘hi, thanks’ too many times. Having an obvious ‘welcome station’ means that people who want to chat and engage more can go and do that, and people who don’t want to be spoken to have the option to not. Giving people options and opportunities allows for people to do what they like and feel comfortable with.
2. Be informative.
Have information ready to give to people, should they want it. If they are checking it out and want to know what the kids ministry looks like, how small groups work or what the vision of the church is - they should be able to easily find that out! Consider having welcome packs available, or brochures on various ministries. Have signs pointing people to bathrooms, coffee, kids areas and any other key areas. Even the main hall might need directions. (And of course have your website updated and looking great).