Why a Welcome Team System is Important
Last month my wife Bethany went on a business trip to South Dakota. She and her Hawaiian coworkers had never been to this state before and were excited for their first experience of the midwest. They flew into Sioux Falls Airport and headed west on the freeway towards their destination. As they drove it became time for lunch so they took the next exit and found themselves in a sleepy rural town with one restaurant, so they walked inside.
As they entered, the tiny bell above the door gave a high-pitched ring. Instantly, all twelve people eating at the diner turned in their chairs and stared at the five newcomers standing in the entryway. A fork dropped out of someone’s hand onto the floor, some of their jaws literally dropped, and the awkward silence lasted ten seconds too long. Finally, a regular sitting at the bar reluctantly shouted “You can sit where ever you’d like!”
You can picture this scene happening at a small town diner, but this same thing happens at churches across the country every single Sunday. Does your church have a system to welcome new people?
It is the responsibility of your entire church to welcome new people, but the reality is the average church member is not thinking about intentionally welcoming new people on any given Sunday. That is why you must designate a welcome team to make sure this happens. Whether your church attendance is the same as a small town diner where everyone knows everyone or if you are a part of a large church where dozens of new people come every Sunday you need to prioritize new people.
Recent surveys show that only ten percent of first-time guests will come back to a church for a second visit. The existence and effectiveness of a welcome team is a big factor in whether a new person will return or not. The welcome team exists for the purpose of embracing new people and welcoming them into your church family. The goal is for new people to keep coming back.
Here are three roles of a person serving on the welcome team and reasons why a welcome team system is important.
A welcome team system is important because:
- First Impressions are Important
When it comes to dating, we decide whether we are attracted to someone or not within one tenth of a second and it takes less than fifteen minutes for us to decide if we want to go on a second date or not. People bring this same mindset into choosing a church. They’ve already researched your beliefs and listened to your sermons and worship music online. Now they’ve come to visit in person to experience the people and community of your church. This is why it’s important for the people on your welcome team to be people that represent your church well. You want your welcome team to be full of people with the gift of hospitality, that are friendly, and enjoy having conversations with new people.
Often times our welcome team members are ushers who just grunt and hand out a bulletin or over-caffeinated volunteers with plastic smiles. You can encourage your welcome team members to just be themselves and train them in how to have genuine conversations in a pleasant way.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression and that’s why the welcome team members are positioned as the first interaction people will have as they enter your worship space. The first role of the welcome team member is to be the first impression.
The second reason why a welcome team system is important is because:
- Hospitality is Important
When you’re shopping at Wal-Mart and can’t find a certain item you look for an employee to assist you with your questions. You know who the employees are because they are wearing vests with the phrase “How may I help you?” printed on the back. In the same way, it’s important that your welcome team members are wearing some kind of identification making it clear to new people that they are here to assist them. For example, at the Waikiki Beach Gathering, our welcome team members wear a Gathering lanyard with a badge of our church logo and the word “Team” on it.
Things may seem pretty straight forward to you, but new people have more questions than you think. Do we just sit down now? Where are the bathrooms? Can I borrow a Bible? They may ask about the history of your church or what ministries your church currently has. It’s important that your welcome team members are knowledgeable and passionate about your church so they can answer these questions correctly and enthusiastically. Welcome team members are more than greeters, they essentially act as tour guides giving clear directions to what’s next and explaining to new people how your church works.
The word for hospitality in Greek means “loving strangers”. Welcome team members love strangers by ensuring that they feel comfortable and acclimated during their first time experience at your church. The second role of a welcome team member is to show hospitality.
And the third reason why a welcome team system is important is because:
- Connections are Important
When my roommates and I first moved to Hawaii nine years ago we decided to try two different churches. We attended the first church three Sundays in a row and every Sunday they had us stand up during the service and gave us a lei welcoming us as first-time guests even though we had been there before. At the second church the associate pastor asked us out to lunch and we were invited to join the young adults connect group where we made friends with other people our age. Needless to say, we chose the second church.
New people may agree with your beliefs, enjoy your sermons and worship music, but what will keep them coming back is their connections with people. A welcome team member is not tasked with becoming everybody’s friend, but what they can do is introduce a new person to somebody else who has a similar background or interests, and that’s how friendships can begin.
It’s also important that your church communicates clear next steps that people can take to get connected with your church. For example, at the Waikiki Beach Gathering our three next steps are joining the church texting group, joining a connect group, and joining a serving team. The person leading the service up front announces these next steps and directs people to go to our connections table in the back to talk with our welcome team members for assistance and more details in making these connections. We have a welcome team member seated at the connections table before, during, and after the service with connect cards and an iPad to help people take these next steps. We have found that when a new person takes one of these next steps they are exponentially more likely to keep coming back.
The welcome team does so much more than welcome. That’s why three years ago we actually changed the name of our welcome team to the “Connections Team”, because their primary task is connecting new people with the church.
“And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?” – Jesus (Matthew 5:47)
It takes a lot of courage for a person to visit a church for the first time. Let’s show new people that we are expecting them and prepared for their arrival. A church is not an exclusive small town diner. A mission-minded church does everything with new people in mind.
How can you add a welcome team to your church?
- Choose a welcome team leader.
- Recruit welcome team members.
- Train your welcome team members in first impressions, hospitality, and connections.
- Schedule at least two welcome team members to serve each Sunday.
- Setup a connections table.
- Decide on a few simple and clear next steps.
- Make it easy for new people to take these next steps.
Having a welcome team system is very important. I am praying for you as you consider these thoughts and create a welcome team system that best suites your church.
Pastor Brady Arneson
The Lutheran Church PLanter
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