How to Treat a Church Newcomer

I have had the chance to visit or be on staff in many churches for over 20 years. My saddest observation is that churches do not either adequately train or understand the ministry of a greeter or usher. I cannot tell you how many churches I have walked into where the men stand around in the foyer and look manly, hand you a bulletin, and tell you “It’s good to see you” if they are “friendly”. What kind of impression will you get if you are a young family with a baby and a few young children?

Honestly, I knew within a few minutes that I did not want to go back. The impression that they give is that they are happy with the people they have and do not want to put forth any extra effort to acquaint you with their ministry.

What should have been done differently?

  • They should have engaged the family in real conversation. Introduce yourself. Find out their names and use them. Find out the ages of the children. Find out if they would be interested in utilizing the nursery or children’s ministry. If so, walk them to it. Introduce them to the children’s ministry workers and the workers to them. Once again, use their names. It makes them feel important.
  • Try to engage with them after the service. Introduce them to others within the church, especially others in their age bracket or life stage. Don’t let this just be the pastor’s job! They expect this from the pastor, so it just seems like he is “doing what he’s supposed to do”.
  • Don’t just put men in as ushers or greeters! There is NOTHING in the Bible that says an usher is supposed to be masculine. In my personal experience, ladies are much better at greeting and engaging people. Anybody can pass a plate. It takes someone who really wants to make people feel welcome to be an usher/greeter.
  • Help them find a seat (especially if they’re late). There is nothing more embarrassing than being late and having to hunt down a seat. For our church situation, we have folding chairs we set up and take down. We set up a certain number. If we have more people show up, we have to be ready to set out more chairs on the spot.
  • All people should engage a guest in meaningful conversation. Don’t overwhelm them but at least act like a normal human being rather than a “church alien” (the kind whose language changes when they walk into a building with a steeple on top).

20 thoughts on “How to Treat a Church Newcomer

  1. I think greeters / ushers underestimate their impact in making people feel comfortable / valued. The lack of interest, and interaction can crush a person’s experience long before one note is played or one word is spoken from the platform.

  2. What if I have special reservations for mine?

    You are right though about how we welcome people, I have also visited churches where no one said a thing and I was out so fast after. Lets be honest, we could literally save someone’s life just by genuinely engaging with them. They could of prayed that morning that if God doesn’t give them a sign that they are loved then what’s the point of living.

    Great points to take notice of Matt, thanks for sharing.

  3. I laughed out loud when you said: “THE ONLY THING IN CHURCH THAT SHOULD BE SAVED ARE THE SOULS IN THE BUILDINGS NOT THE SEATS!!!!!!!!!!!” – ain’t that the truth! I agree from experience. – Sherline 😀

  4. Love the cartoon Matt!! Can I get a copy? One church I went to – if you were on your own they’d arrange for someone to sit with you – if you liked. Thought that was a nice touch. I remember going to one church full of people, sitting on my own – this lady got chatting to me “You’re BRAVE walking in without knowing anybody!”
    And I would say to you married couples it can be extremely DAUNTING for a single person to cross the threshold… be aware and reach out to them. That ‘kindness’ might make all the difference 🙂

  5. I remember going to church when I was younger, and the ushers never smiled and were very cold. It was very uncomfortable, and it was very unwelcoming. Those who are door greeters should smile, help newcomers out, and make them feel welcome in the church. God lays people in our paths, so we need to make sure that we are showing the love of Christ to each to them so they can find Christ.

    I agree with you completely! The souls in the church should be saved more than the seats, for there are a lot of lost people sitting in church pews, and them being saved should be our most important mission. God bless you! 🙂

  6. As soon as I saw this title I knew I wanted to read it. Over the past few years our church has come along way with this. I even bought books on the subjects. We now include women, teenagers, and even children as ushers and greeters. We still face the daunting task of having the whole body understand how significant the job is. Many see it as just handing out bulletins and collecting the offering…

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