By Thom S. Rainer
You might be wondering if a greeter ministry is still relevant today. Do we even need greeters any more?
It’s a fair question. Shouldn’t we expect everyone in the church to be friendly to guests? Why do we have to ask people to do what they should be doing anyway?
Perhaps in an ideal world with an ideal organization with ideal people such an approach would work. But that’s not our world, and that’s not our church. We, therefore, greatly need greeter ministries for three reasons.
It’s a focused ministry
Many of our members are already involved in other ministries. The leaders who are checking in and caring for children can’t go to the parking lot to greet people. The worship team that is making quick adjustments before the service begins can’t drop what they are doing and become greeters at the doors.
The Sunday school or small groups teacher is waiting on other group members to arrive. He can’t leave the room and man the welcome center.
We need people in ministry whose sole focus at the moment is greeting people. We need church members who understand greeters do more than merely saluting people upon arrival; we need them to be praying about the encounters they will have each week. For some, they will have a divine encounter with a guest.
That man or woman or child who is visiting your church comes with expectations and needs. The first line of ministry takes place with greeters.
Simply stated, the greeter ministry is too important to be a casual thought in church life. As I noted, I have been consulting with churches for over three decades. I see what an incredible difference a good greeter ministry makes. I know churches where the greeter ministry was used of God in part to bring a true transformation and revitalization to the congregation.
And I know people who were not followers of Christ who were greatly influenced toward the gospel by greeters.
Our churches need greeters. Our congregations need to take seriously this ministry and make it a key part of the life of the church.
It moves people to strategic locations
Can you imagine walking into a restaurant to learn that the host or hostess is somewhere in the kitchen? Would you go looking for him or her if they weren’t there to greet you?
A greeter is a leader in ministry. It is critical that these leaders are strategically located where they will make first and powerful connections with guests. When we have a good greeter ministry in our church, we know where every greeter will be. We know the specifics of every assignment.
You see, without an organized greeter ministry, we are not likely to be where the guests are. We are not likely to see them when they arrive.
It is not an overstatement to say the presence of greeters in strategic locations could very well have an eternal gospel impact on someone.
It’s just that important.
It commits volunteers to specific times
A pastor once contacted me with a sense of desperation. He asked me to conduct a consultation for the specific purpose of determining why guests showed up late for the worship services. It was a consistent and troubling pattern.
Children’s workers were frustrated because they were signing in children of guests late. The workers were not able to begin the lessons on time for the other children. Greeters also had their challenges. They wanted to be on duty when guests arrived, but many of the guests were late. They too had to wait before they were able to go to the worship services.
The murmuring grew among the members as the pattern continued. So the pastor retained me for one of the most focused consultations I had experienced. “Please tell us,” he said, “what options we have about guests who arrive late.”
My process was simple. I would be among the greeters. When a guest arrived late, I would ask three or four brief questions, including a non-threatening question about their late arrival.
By Sunday afternoon, I had solved the mystery. The pastor thought I was a genius. His evaluation of me was overrated.
In fact, I knew the answer as soon as I spoke with the first late arriving guest. She told me she was not late. Confused, I looked at the church’s website. The time of the service was incorrect! The church had its website re-done a few weeks earlier.
In the process of revamping the site, the worship time was listed incorrectly by fifteen minutes. I have seen this mistake more than once.
There are many lessons to this story, but let’s focus on one of them. All the workers in the church were waiting on the guests, even to their own inconvenience. They wanted to be in the right place at the right time when guests arrived. Such is the encouragement I offered the pastor.
Among the many reasons we have a greeter ministry is to welcome the guests at the specific time they arrive. We want our churches to be welcoming churches, but we can’t welcome people we miss.
THOM S. RAINER (@ThomRainer) is President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. This article is excerpted with permission from Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom S. Rainer. Copyright 2018, B&H Publishing Group.