August 10, 2015
One of the most effective things you can possibly do to grow a healthy parish that is easy to get started, not particularly demanding when it comes to maintenance, and, best of all, free: Greeters.
Really? Yeah, really.
There are lots of reasons people give us for how they found their way to our church, but far and away the number one reason newcomers tell us they come back to our church is the hospitality. Admittedly that gets played out in a number of ways in our weekend experience, but the most impactful way is often that simple smile and friendly greeting at the door. It makes all the difference in the world when it comes to the unchurched persons feelings as they step into your church.
Studies show that the communication within the first four minutes of human interaction go a long way toward determining the nature of that relationship- friend, acquaintance, or enemy. Greeters represent Jesus as the first step toward recognizing and befriending the stranger in our midst. The ministry is simply too important to ignore.
Here are four “best practices” when it comes to creating and maintaining a dynamic greeter ministry.
Like any ministry, greeters have to have a heart for what they do, a certain personality type that is required. This seems obvious but is often overlooked in our urgency to fill vacant roles. Decide what type of person is going to represent you best and form that first time impression. Then, train them. Most church greeters have had no training, and it is often painfully obvious. The simple process of training makes a dramatic difference in this ministry. Beyond your own in-house training, encourage greeters to visit other churches and study the best or bad practices of others.
Like many areas of ministry, teams work best for greeting ministry. It makes the effort more fun, creates a culture of collaboration and lessens the burden on individuals. The rotation helps ministers keep a fresh perspective and avoid burnout. Of course, a greeter in the “off” cycle can fill in for another greeter when needed which is very helpful.
This strategy also helps avoid what we call ministry “silos”. It’s not a closed men or women’s club who save seats for their family or friends. A variety of adult men and women of different ages is best.
Greeters are not tasked with striking up a full-blown conversation or getting the life story of every visitor that walks in, which can have the opposite effect. Holding the door with a simple hello gets the job done. This keeps people moving inside and doesn’t block the entrance.
In some churches, the greeters’ ministry has second-class status. There are probably a number of reasons why, but the point is, those churches that are highly effective in retaining first-time guests understand the importance of this ministry. Put some of your best people on it and be sure parish leadership is supporting and encouraging them. Gather the greeters together for ministry wide meetings and seasonal celebrations.
By: Rev. Michael White, Pastor, Church of the Nativity, Timonium, MD