Seven Things Church Members Should Say to Guests in a Worship Service

May 20, 2015

One of the more common questions I’m asked relates to growth barriers. For example, church leaders may want to know how to move past the 150-attendance level of the past five years. Or other leaders desire to know how to break though financial giving barriers.

Those questions are tough because they often presume a brief response to be adequate. In reality, there are many theological and methodological issues at work in growth barriers. Today, I am looking at a very basic barrier: lack of friendliness to church guests.

In a previous blog post, I noted things we should not say to a guest in our worship services. In today’s post I look at the positive perspective: seven things we should say to guests.

  1. “Thank you for being here.” It’s just that basic. I have heard from numerous church guests who returned because they were simply told “thank you.”
  2. “Let me help you with that.” If you see someone struggling with umbrellas, young children, diaper bags, purses, and other items, a gesture to hold something for them is a huge positive. Of course, this comment is appropriate for member to member as well.
  3. “Please take my seat.” I actually heard that comment twice in a church where I was speaking in the Nashville area. The first comment came from a member to a young family of five who were trying to find a place to sit together.
  4. “Here is my email address. Please let me know if I can help in any way.” Of course, this comment must be used with discretion, but it can be a hugely positive message to a guest.
  5. “Can I show you where you need to go?” Even in smaller churches, guests will not know where to find the nursery, restrooms, and small group meeting areas. You can usually tell when a guest does not know where he or she is to go.
  6. “Let me introduce you to ___________.” The return rate of guests is always higher if they meet other people. A church member may have the opportunity to introduce the guest to the pastor, other church staff, and other members of the church.
  7. “Would you join us for lunch?” I saved this question for last for two reasons. First, the situation must obviously be appropriate before you offer the invitation. Second, I have seen this approach have the highest guest return rate of any one factor. What if your church members sought to invite different guests 6 to 12 times a year? The burden would not be great; but the impact would be huge.

Let’s look at one example of breaking attendance barriers by saying the right things to guests. Presume your church has two first-time guests a week. Over the course of a year, the church would have 100 first-time guests. With most of the members being genuinely guest friendly, you could see half of those guests become active members. Attendance could thus increase by as much as 50 persons every year.

Good interaction with guests is a huge step toward breaking attendance barriers, but it is obviously not the only step. We are launching a new subscription ministry called Church Answers. One of the three resources you will get every month is called “Breaking Barriers.” We are so excited about the response so far. You can register here. But registration closes in a few days, so hurry.

I always look forward to your comments and questions.

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61 Comments

  • I attend church in Newhall, CA. north of Los Angeles.
    One of the hallmarks of our church is hospitality, second only to clear, fearless preaching and robust liturgical worship.
    Why do guests return over and over again? Because the above three characteristics go hand in hand with each other. God reached down to us through Christ, we lift our hands in praise, adoration and worship, we reach out in hospitality, warmth and help.
    Giving shape to hospitality are the monthly “parish group” lunches after church. We are divided into 4 (soon to be 5 because of growth) groups. Within each parish group are two host homes who alternate hosting lunch. Through evites, the menu is announced and signups are made. It is not uncommon for the day to end around 5 or 6 in the afternoon. An important part of this time is for adults to fellowship with each other BUT ALSO to get to know the children among us – and visa versa. We all pitch in for clean-up so as not to burden the host home. Dishes, floors, yard, toys are all set back to normal. We all assume the burden of hosting that way and it turns out not to burden anyone.
    Guests integrate quickly this way and become regular attenders and active members quickly as they see and taste and feel the love of Christ.

  • My wife is Catholic, and I’m Baptist. She often visits with me at our church, as I am very active in the music program. She likes to hear the performances. But she is an extreme introvert. When people repeatedly invite her to join my church, come more often, etc, she feels “suffocated.” A simple “good morning” or “glad to have you with us” is a better thought.

  • I got the ‘evil eye’, just this past Sunday for sitting in someone’s seat. The time before, I was with a group of people- and we were asked to move several times. Sadly, I am the only one who dared to go back. Thank you for this article!

    • I would like to think just one of these suggestions would have been received by the church l attended last Sunday if you want to call it that ! The only one that spoke to out of a congregation est. 200 was the pastor and I had to approach him ! I was acknowledged though when I said Amen a few times! The family sitting in front of me almost jumped out of there skin!

  • Tom Smedley says on

    Try this experiment in 2016:

    A. Invite five Muslim couples, students, for example, over to your home for dinner.

    B. Invite 50 couples from your own church over to your home for dinner.

    C. Tally the return invitations.

    Hospitality is a missing art in American culture, alas.

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