Five Common Greeter Mistakes to Correct in the New Year

I guess I’m a bit picky here

If your church has a greeter ministry, it’s already ahead of most churches. I should just be grateful you have such a ministry.

But you do want it to improve, right?

Greeter ministries, like any other ministries, can get in a rut. And since we are about to greet a new year, let’s have an honest conversation about how to begin a new year with some improvements in your greeter ministry.

Here are the five most common greeter ministry mistakes. The good news is they are all easily correctable.

  1. Greeters who only converse with people they know. Sure, they will give a perfunctory “hello” to those they see, but many only have conversations with those they know. Sometimes greeters spend most of their time talking to one another. A great greeter strikes up a conversation with someone he or she does not know.
  2. Failure to have greeters in the worship center before services begin. This issue is commonplace. What happens when guests arrive to attend services? They usually go sit down and wait for the services to begin. With no one speaking to them. With no one seated by them. I will expand on this issue in an upcoming post.
  3. Combining the greeter function with the person who hands out bulletins/worship folders. Greeters just have to be free to greet! They can’t greet and converse if they are busy handing out a bulletin to each passerby.
  4. Greeters who fail to introduce themselves. It’s not a true greeting unless the greeter takes time to introduce himself or herself to a number of people. But what if the person receiving the greeting is a long-term member? You know, I’ve never known members to get mad because someone is making an effort to get to know them better.
  5. Failure to have greeters in place after the services have begun. Guests will be late. They may never have been to your church before. They may have had problems getting the kids ready. They may have underestimated the travel time. Sometimes we have asked “secret guests” to be 10 minutes late to a service intentionally. Nearly three-fourths of the time, there is absolutely no one there to greet them for their late arrival.

Yes, greeters can make a big difference in how guests perceive your church. I am grateful many of your churches have greeters. I am even more grateful when you strive for excellence with these ambassadors of hospitality.

Let me hear from you.

Posted on January 4, 2017


With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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50 Comments

  • Don Livermore says on

    Great and helpful work Thom.
    Thank you…

  • Great post! We are looking at starting a welcome team. I would love to know if you have did an article, pod cast or something in the past on a great structure and function for a healthy welcome team? Welcome team including greeting and follow up! The works!

  • David George says on

    Thom, how many churches actually have Greeter training?

  • Terry O'Casey says on

    A couple of additional points I have learned over the years to add to your excellent list:

    1) Don’t put huggers as your greeters. My mother was a hugger who sent a lot of first time visitors to other churches.
    2) Watch special needs kids. Some wonderful kids with autism are not “shy..” Don’t bend down and try to make them smile etc.
    3) As the pastor, don’t rush around in a frenetic panic micromanaging. Go out and greet. Stand in the parking lot, by the door, walk among those seated.
    4) Have dads and daughters, grandmas and grandkids greeting together. A great first impression. (reward the kids with Dairy Queen after church!)

  • It is also very important to greet those members/guest that have been out for a while with a positive welcome. I have seen so many times greeters saying to these folks “It’s about time you come back”, “the walls are going to fall in”, “where have you been”, etc… These folks stopped going for a reason, they certainly don’t need to hear that when they return.

    • That’s good counsel, Leslie.

      • Don Livermore says on

        Great thought Leslie.
        Sometimes those that have been gone for awhile have been hurt by life or by the church. They may be struggling with thoughts of never going back to church again. Perhaps God will minister to these hurting ones by that one greeter that welcomes them back with open arms only.

  • Paula Dorsey Thomas says on

    Thank you, Thom. We feel that it is important to have greeters all over as well as making sure we greet the children, and shake their hands as well. Now, some of them even come in and shake our hands first, or offer us a hug first. Thank you for all you do!!!????

  • Morgan Stuart says on

    We have children (3rd-5th grade currently) handing out bulletins. This is two-fold as it gets the children involved in serving in the church, but it also frees up the greeters to be able to shake a hand and chat rather than having to be ready for the next person to walk through the door.

  • This article below could serve as the basis for a great team meeting with CVC greeters.

    1. Send the article to your greeters in advance.

    2. Set up a Greeter Team meeting with light refreshments.

    3. Start the meeting with a short devotional around the verse “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16, I Corinthians 16:20, II Corinthians 13:12, and I Thessalonians 5:26). Ask, “Why is greeting important? What happens when greeting doesn’t happen well? What happens for the Kingdom when the greeting does happen well? (Note: The following website has a summary study: https://www.gotquestions.org/holy-kiss.html)

    4. Four, lead your team in prayer.

    5. Take turns – ask your team to read Thom Rainer’s article “Five Common Greeter Mistakes to Correct in the New Year” aloud so that everyone hears. You can find the article here: https://thomrainer.com/2017/01/five-common-greeter-mistakes-correct-new-year/

    6. Lead a discussion about the article asking questions such as, “Which of these 5 mistakes do you think we are not making? Which of these do you think might be (or might become) a problem for us? Realizing that we don’t have to accept all of Thom Rainer’s advice, what changes do you suggest we make in light of his article? What are 2-3 ways we might be able to do a better job at greeting both guests and regulars?” (Put the answers to this last question on a Large Post-it.)

    7. Practice the following scenario: Have one person play the role of a regular. Have another person play the role of a guest. Finally, have someone play the role of greeter. The greeter is engaged in conversation with a regular. A guest walks in. Watch and listen to how the greeter excuses himself or herself from the conversation with the regular in order to engage with the guest.

    8. Practice this scenario four or five times, each time changing the persons who play the roles of greeter, guest, and regular.

    9. Ask the team what they’ve learned from the practice scenarios. Record their answers on a large Post-it entitled, “Principles for Growing Great Greeter.”

    10. Ask the team to develop some word tracks so that they learn how to politely extract themselves from conversations with regulars in order to engage with the guests. (Write down the best word tracks that you will send out in a follow-up email.)

    11. Thank the team for their service. Explain to them how important it is. Cast vision for how the eternal address of someone might change because they perform their ministry well.

    12. Close the time in prayer, asking for God’s blessing on the Greeter Team.

  • Bonnie Couse says on

    I am a member of a truly small church plant. On average we seat approximately 30-40 adults and teens in the worship area. I have recently volunteered to be a “greeter” in the hallway of the school building where we are meeting. Thank you for these pointers today. I am taking them to heart, and am feeling “called” to this position as I read your suggestions. The one I had already taken to heart, and you have validated for me, is waiting outside the worship center for late-comers. This has truly been important several times, as the ones who come in late are feeling rushed and guilty. I make them aware that I am so glad they came, late is not an issue, and show them the second door where they are able to enter at the back, so as not to feel like all eyes are watching them. Thank you for this article.

  • It helps to have greeters capable of actually opening the door for folks, maybe under 80+ yrs old. Just a thought.

    • Ken Wilson says on

      I am 81 and a greeter. You think I should quit?
      Ken

      • Michele Bellon says on

        God bless you for being a greeter. Sometimes older people have much wisdom and perceptiveness, learned from a lifetime of experiencing and helping other people. I’ve also noticed a genuine concern for others and a willingness to go out of their way to be friendly and welcoming. This attitude of older generations should be highly valued and respected.

  • Lisa Gold says on

    Our church has a greeter ministry that not only greets people at the doors, but also has some people walking around in our narthex and café talking to people that they do not know. (We are a large church with 1000+ in attendance). We just started having greeters in the worship service. Instead of “greeters”, we call them our church ambassadors. They are intentional about greeting visitors first and then talking to regular attendees who sit in their section of the sanctuary. It has been working extremely well. I would highly recommend it.

    • I really like that. Thanks, Lisa.

    • Ron Harvey says on

      Lisa, do you ambassadors wear name tags(nice ones, not paper stick on)?

    • Ron Harvey, I’ve started this practice as well but my roving sanctuary greeters are undercover, they don’t wear name tags. I don’t want them to be seen as “the greeters who were supposed to speak to me”, I want them to be “the friendly people who came over & spoke to me & introduced themselves”. I think people expect a greeting at the door but judge the friendliness of the church by what happens beyond the front door.

  • Please don’t let greeters interrogate people. I have seen some greeters ask so many questions of a new person trying to figure out if they are just visiting or are a potential new member and who they are related to.

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