Every Sunday your church has guests, and a certain percentage will visit Bible study groups. Many begin that part of their journey at your church’s welcome center. It is there that your greeter ministry either helps or hurts the process of assimilating those guests into your church. It won’t be a neutral experience. If guests have a good experience, you’ll move them closer to aligning with your church; a bad experience in the assimilation process will do the opposite. Once, while visiting a rather large church, the student pastor escorted me to my adult classroom. I thought, “Now this is impressive!” – until he opened the door, caught the attention of the group leader and the members and said, “Hey, I’ve brought you some fresh meat” (no, I’m not kidding – he actually said that).
Don’t be “that guy.” Here are three ways that your church’s greeter ministry can help move people to a deeper level of engagement at your church:
- Walk the guest to class – I’ve been a guest in numerous churches when I travel and train, and I’ve intentionally sought directional help at different church’s welcome centers; I wanted to see how they got me from Point A to Point B. Only on rare occasions did someone at the greeter center leave the desk area and walk me to the class they said was the best fit for me. In my experience greeters normally say something like, “The class we recommend for you is in room 101. It’s down the hallway, left at the water fountain, and left again after you go past the room with the wreath on the door. When you get to the junction of three hallways, take the one on the right, go down a short flight of stairs, and you’re pretty much there.” If you want to create a bad experience for guests, just do more of that, and don’t forget to point a bony finger in the general direction of the classroom while you tell the guest, “Your class is that way.”
- Take the guest to a newer group – You may be wondering why guests aren’t “sticking” in the classes to which you assign them. Chances are you’re taking them to groups that have been together a long time – and that’s deadly. When groups have been together longer than 18 months, they essentially become “closed” groups. This happens as they do life together, serve together, pray together, and become close (exactly what we want them to do!). But when guests show up, the class feels like a clique. And it probably has become one. The solution? Escort guests to the newest groups on your campus. Newer groups have people in them who may not have connected relationally with others in the group. They have time and space on their calendars to connect with guests. I recently used the illustration of a Lego to emphasize this point with a group of Christian educators. Older, established groups have members who are relationally connected to others in the group – there simply are no more connection points open in their lives, so they have no time and energy left to develop new friendships (nor do they feel the need for them). Your guests will stick at a greater level if you place them in your newer groups.
- Take the guest to a smaller group – If you want a guest to have a great experience, smaller groups are the right place to take them. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute – I want them to experience so-and-so’s class – he has the biggest group in the church and he’s our best teacher.” The problem with that is two-fold: first, that class is most likely arranged in rows, and people sit and look at the back of someone’s head (and they normally don’t talk much in that kind of setting). The room arrangement communicates that it’s going to be teacher-centric, and that the main goal is to sit, listen, and learn. The second problem with this is that most of your guests will walk out of a class like this and will be no closer to forming new friendships than when you first dropped them off. In smaller groups, people typically sit in a circle (which fosters communication and engagement) and the class has a more robust discussion about the biblical text being studied (in a large class only one or two people typically talk). If people are engaged, they are going to be more likely to return.
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