LINEUP for a Friendlier Church
One of the best ways to set your church apart and ensure that visitors have the best first impression, is to increase the ‘friendliness’ quotient of your church. While new people may be looking to grow spiritually, the thing that will help them choose your church is often as simple as how welcome they feel and the relationships they form.
And as pastor Karl Vaters puts it in his blog post 4 Steps to a Friendlier Church, “It’s often easier to find a church that preaches the Bible, has good worship and offers excellent child care than it is to find a church where we can make genuine, lasting friendships. Genuine friendships are becoming more rare – and thus, of greater perceived value – than any other aspect of modern church life.”
But you can’t really force friendliness, instead it has to be at the core of who and what your church is so where do you start? Pastor Hal Seed, of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, CA shared these three ideas in his blog post Church Assimilation: 3 Simple Ways to be a Friendly Church
1. Call yourself a friendly church.
It’s the power of speaking blessing over people. During your announcements every week say, “You’ve probably noticed that this is one of the friendliest churches in the world. So let’s prove it, church, as you take a minute to meet the people around you.” If you say it, they will receive it, and come to live it.
In that moment, early in the service, everyone experiences a few moments of friendliness.
2. Line Up or GIFT Up.
Both Pastor Seed and Pastor Vaters have implemented a system to encourage regular attendees to step out of their comfort zone after the service and greet people they don’t know.
At New Song, core members are asked to “LINE-UP” every weekend.
- L = Look for someone you don’t know.
- I = Introduce yourself.
- N = Never sit alone.
- E = Engage in conversation after the service.
- U = Use the RU New Café (our monthly lunch for newcomers).
- P = Practice the 3/10 Rule (talk to three people you don’t know during the first 10 minutes after the service).
Pastor Seed says at New Song they embed the process in their people by teaching it at leadership meetings, new members’ classes, and at least annually in church.
Pastor Vater uses the acronym GIFT and says “Every week, we encourage our church members, and especially our leaders, to do at least one of the following steps:
- GREET someone you’ve never met before
- INTRODUCE people to each other
- FOLLOW UP on someone you met recently.
- THANK someone who did something you appreciate.
And says, “We don’t expect people to do all four steps each week. Most find that they do one or two well, but not the others. And if someone gets busy on a Sunday and misses doing it, there’s no guilt attached.”
3. Amp up your greeting team.
Scale friendliness by having greeters all over the place. Pastor Seed says, “We like to have greeters in the children’s and youth ministries and in the parking lot, plus of course, the front sidewalk and the lobby, so that everyone is welcomed as they arrive.”
Seed also recommends that churches try to put people at the doors who look like the people you want to attract.
“It’s easy for older gentlemen to be greeters – they can come every week and they arrive on time – but they don’t exactly match the young families that you’re seeking, so mix up the team with people who are all ages and colors,” he recommends.
4. Make it easy to be a visitor
Remember the stress of your first day of high school? Not knowing where any of your classes were, not knowing how to look or act? Yeah, don’t do that to your visitors. Taking the step to come to church is a tough one – so remove any barriers that make it harder. Here are a few things to consider to make a guests first visit easier:
- Create a “Plan Your Visit” section on your website and show pictures of your services, candid photos of people talking in the lobby etc. Give potential visitors visual clues along with written information about your church. Are you traditional with pews and a choir in robes, or are you contemporary meeting in a gymnasium? Tell parents about the security measures they can expect in your children’s area and how you handle food allergies. Try to alleviate any concerns people may have about coming to your church.
- Have a parking team – if your church has any parking issues or confusion, you need to have people out waving at guests and pointing to empty spots. Create a drop off area for families with small children and for anyone with mobility issues- have greeters ready to open doors and help people out of their cars. If you live in an area with inclement weather, have greeters with umbrella’s ready to cover people as they exit the vehicle.
- Pump up the signage – Don’t force visitors to guess or ask where your worship center is or where to take their kids, put up new Banners and signs to help direct them. Outdoors flag banners and sandwich-board style signs can help direct visitors to key areas around your church like the worship center and children’s areas. Equip greeters with Handheld signs that have friendly messages like ‘We’re Glad You’re Here’ and “Smile it’s Sunday”.
Finally, don’t forget about follow up! A quick “thanks for visiting” note or email from a staff member can go a long way to helping someone decide to come back for a second or third visit. It doesn’t take a lot of money or effort to start shifting the friendliness quotient so take a couple small steps and see what happens!