By Juan Sanchez
On Easter Sunday we will welcome many visitors to our worship gatherings. A lot of these guests will step into a church service for the first time. Many, I suspect, do not call themselves Christians.
Guests notice and usually comment on how loving a fellowship is (or is not) by their willingness to welcome newcomers. If your church already welcomes guests well, then praise God for His work among you and continue to remind your members about the preciousness of others.
The following are just 10 ways we can help guests feel welcome and at home each Sunday, but especially this coming Easter Sunday when so many will visit your church for the first, and possibly, last time.
1. Leave the parking spaces closest to the entrances for your guests, expectant mothers, and senior adults.
Clearly mark your guest parking areas. Honor guests by leaving these spaces open for visitors. Also, encourage those who can to utilize the farthest parking spaces so that senior adults, expectant mothers, and families with younger children will not have as far to walk.
And remind your members of issues that are specific to your situation—special parking, overflow parking, etc. Finally, if necessary, organize a parking team for Easter Sunday. This team may not only direct guests to parking, but they can serve as your first greeters, letting visitors know where to enter your building.
2. Greet everyone you see with a smile whether you know them or not.
From the time you step out of your vehicle, greet everyone with a friendly smile and tell them how glad you are to see them. Use the time from the parking lot to the pew to greet visitors and to get to know other members.
3. Introduce yourself to those you don’t know.
If you don’t know someone, take the time to greet them and introduce yourself. And try to meet a new person or family each Sunday, not just on Easter Sunday.
4. Assist those who don’t seem to know where they are going.
Remember, you may know where everything is in your church building, but your guests are not familiar with our facilities. Take time to show them around, and offer to take them to where they need to go.
5. Fill the seats at the front of the meeting room first when you enter to worship.
We all run behind schedule at times for various reasons. Late comers and guests do not like to parade before the entire congregation on their way to find a seat. If you fill the seats up front (and scoot in toward the middle), then visitors and late comers can slip in without having to walk in front of the entire congregation.
6. Don’t rush off after the service.
Instead, take a few minutes to greet visitors and other members you do not normally see. Thank them for attending your services and invite them to come again.
7. Prepare a gift for your visitors.
Each week we prepare gift bags for our guests that contain information about our church, a free ESV New Testament, and other helpful materials. Guests may pick up their gift bag at our Welcome Center in the front foyer.
We also make our gift bags available in the nursery. But even if you only do it for Easter Sunday, prepare a little something for your guests, so that even if they don’t come back, you know that they have gospel materials that will point them to Christ.
8. Invite visitors out or to your home for a meal.
One of the best ways to get to know someone is to share a meal together. Practice Christian hospitality by inviting someone to eat lunch with you after worship.
9. Invite first time visitors to worship with you again.
You will be amazed how much weight a personal invitation carries. Encourage visitors to return and worship with you on a regular Sunday.
10. Above all, pastors, preach the gospel!
While all these ideas are helpful and provide a welcoming environment, they mean nothing if we don’t preach the gospel! If the whole Bible is about Christ, the gospel should be present in our sermons each week.
But if not pastors, please be sure to preach the gospel and make Christ compelling this Easter Sunday, and consider preaching Christ each Sunday thereafter. Preach every sermons as if it will be the only time these guests will hear about Christ.
Right or wrong, visitors will form an opinion about our churches within the first few minutes after they arrive. Make every effort to welcome guests this Easter Sunday (and every other Sunday) through genuine, Christian love and hospitality.
And be sure to point them to Christ—the whole point of Easter Sunday!
JUAN R. SANCHEZ (@manorjuan)is husband to Jeanine, father to five daughters, senior pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church, Austin, Texas, and author of Seven Dangers Facing Your Church. This article first appeared in The Southern Baptist Texan online and is used with permission.