What makes the best impression on church-goers passing through your doors? Is it the live music? The atmosphere? If you ask most first-time church-goers what made the most impact, they will probably come back with some form of answer that has to do with the introduction to the church. It’ll probably sound something like, “People were friendly when we walked through the doors”, “The pastor just seemed really open”, or on the other side of the coin, “The church member’s didn’t even know I walked in the door”, or “I really just didn’t feel the church”. These are all various complaints church-goers, especially first-time visitors, have made at some point.
Newcomers can often feel out of place when the audience suddenly hushes and the choir breaks out into a song, followed by minutes of announcements and tithe gathering before jumping into a sermon. With no introduction to what’s about to happen, it can take the newcomer out of the experience and leaving them wondering what in the world is happening. As the pastor, though, it’s impossible to get around and greet everyone in the morning, especially if you have a large church.
So what can you, as a pastor do to make everyone feel invited and welcome from new members to regular? Welcome speeches offer a comfortable way to prepare everyone for worship before diving in. But how can a pastor create a welcome message that makes everyone feel welcome, without boring regular members and without making newcomers feel awkward?
1. NOT EVERY VISITOR WANTS A PERSONAL GREETING
Know this right up front: you can make your visitors and newcomers feel welcome without asking them to do anything they may be uncomfortable with. In modern churches, an awkward trend became popular in the new millennium, in which pastors would ask newcomers to stand and get welcomed. Some may be comfortable with this – but many are not. Put yourselves in their shoes. A newcomer has just arrived at a church of people they do not know yet and are suddenly asked to stand and get acknowledged by them. It’s a very elementary-school type of embarrassment that may be uncomfortable for people, and create social anxiety.
A better way to handle this situation? Create a simple welcome or “connection” card for visitors to fill out. Then, during your church welcome speech, express how excited you are that they are there. Invite them to fill out the card with some basic information so you can greet them privately later. You’ll deliver a more intimate greeting without the potential for an awkward social moment.
However, don’t ignore the new members entirely when you speak. It is vital to deliver a church welcome speech (just not without the personal introductions) to welcome newcomers. For your welcome content, be inspirational. Take a look at this wonderful passage from HeavensInspiration.com, delivered in a unique, poetic form (penned by M.S. Lowndes):
We invite you with open arms
To come along to our church,
We hope that you can join with us
In worship and God’s word
If you have needs, and want someone
To listen and to pray,
We’re here for you with open hearts
And God’s love to give away.
As soon as you collect their information, you can contact the newcomers by phone or in-person to offer a meet-and-greet time on Sunday morning or sometime during the week. Or even offer a unique welcome feature like a parking lot party.
2. THE ONLY RESPONSIBILITY OF THE WELCOME MESSAGE IS TO DO JUST THAT: WELCOME THE VISITORS.
Shorter is sweeter when it comes to a church welcome speech. Do you need to mention that church-wide barbecue next Sunday, or all the service projects the seniors class is doing? You probably don’t – especially when those details are in the bulletin, on the website, or your social media. Don’t include events mentioned elsewhere. Keep the focus on the message: to welcome your audience in the worship. Remind them to look in the bulletin for updates, and keep the service moving. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If there is some change in the schedule, or some special event happening after the service, feel free to mention it. Invite your visitors to join you, free-of-charge.
Let’s take a look at a real-life example from Write-out-Loud.com.
I want to take a moment to extend a very warm welcome to everyone who’s visiting us for the first time this morning. Whether you’re just having a look, or are searching out for a place to worship, we’re delighted to have you here.
That specific, concise message is perfect. Ultimately, that linked example goes on for another few paragraphs, detailing the fundamental beliefs and messages of the church and outlining everything it stands for. Our suggestion? Keep it shorter and sweeter. Print the rest out in your bulletin, put it on your website, and or let the audience discover it through interaction. Set the tone for your church, but don’t feel like you need to say everything. Something simple, with the underlying message of “We’re happy you’re here, let us serve you today” is quick, to the point, and focuses the attention on the audience – not yourself.
3. YOU SHOULD WELCOME ALL VISITORS BEFORE THE MUSIC BEGINS
Welcoming the visitors before the music starts is the perfect way to set expectations for your congregations. Often – especially in modern services – it’s common to hear a song or two before the pastor delivers the church welcome speech. This can get confusing for the incoming guests that have never attended your church before. By creating a sense of welcome before the service begins, you can help your guests understand what’s about to happen.
This can be a simple message. It could be as basic as, “In a few moments, we will worship together with a short hymn, but we want to take a quick moment to welcome those visiting.” That’s it – simple and easy. You can use a similar message without delving into every little detail of the service, and still keep your audience engaged.
This is a great way to set expectations for your congregation. Often, especially in more modern services, it’s common to sing a song or two before the pastor gives the welcome message. However, this can often be confusing to the incoming guest who has never attended your church before. Creating a sense of welcome before the service even begins can help your guests understand what’s about to happen. It can be as simple as, “In a few moments we will worship together with a short hymn, but we want to take a quick moment to welcome those visiting.” Simple and easy. You can use a similar message without delving into every little detail of the service and still keep your audience engaged.
“Welcome to our service here at (NAME OF CHURCH)! The Bible tells us in Psalms 100:4-5 (KJV) 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. When we read a scripture like that, one does not even have to “guess” what kind of attitude we need to have as we enter the House of the Lord to worship Christ!”
This message does an exceptional job of setting the tone and mood for the service. It’s exciting and grabs the visitor’s attention right away without needing a lot of detail. It also tells the visitor what to expect from the service.
4. DON’T SCRIPT YOUR MESSAGE UNLESS NECESSARY
If you’re the pastor who feels nervous giving a quick hello without guidelines, go ahead and write a short script and lay out what needs to be said. Remember, though, that you’re goal isn’t to just inform your guests, it's to make them feel at home.
GrowChurch.net offers several examples that can be taken and edited for your church. Here’s one of the best ones:
“Hi! I’m [YOUR NAME] and a very welcome to you. It’s so good to see so many smiling faces this morning! If this is your first time at [CHURCH NAME] I want to extend a special warm welcome to you, it’s great to have you with us. Please take a moment and fill out the connect card that can be found [LOCATION]. That’ll really help us get to know you a little bit better and know how we can serve or pray for you. This week we start a brand 4-week series called [SERMON SERIES NAME] where we’re going to be talking about [TOPIC]. I know that God is going to speak to us, amen? Before I go, let me just remind you that [USEFUL INFO HERE]. That being said, let’s get ready to [NEXT STEP HERE].OK, let’s pray together. [PRAYER]”
That’s a great example of a short, sweet outline. Customize that with your own personal message, and it won’t sound rehearsed.
5. MAKE THE WELCOME MESSAGE ABOUT YOUR CONGREGATION, NOT YOU.
As we said, the primary goal of the church welcome speech is to make your visitors feel welcome. Here’s an excellent example from freechurchforms.net that does just that:
“Dear [Church Visitor’s Name], Greetings! I’m glad you joined us this past Sunday. We believe we are in great days to be serving Jesus, with even greater ahead! I’m glad you could attend. I hope that you found our time together inspiring, meaningful, challenging, and perhaps even a little fun. We certainly enjoyed having you with us. Wow! Here we are already well into the 21st Century. The older I get, the faster it seems to fly! Perhaps that’s why the Bible tells us to “Make the most of every opportunity.” Those opportunities come and go so quickly and more often than not, never return. That’s one of the reasons why I’m so glad you have been with us. Sunday is such a great opportunity for worship, and I hope that it will lead to many more opportunities to get to know and enjoy each other. Thanks for coming!”
Remember, welcome messages are short, honest, and guest-focused. A quick example? “Welcome, everyone, to NAME OF CHURCH. First-time guests, we’re happy to welcome you in. I’m Pastor NAME. If you’re interested in learning more, please fill out the welcome card located LOCATION. Today, we’re looking at DETAIL in the scripture.”
It’s basic, it’s earnest, and it’s an effective church welcome speech. You can easily take a short message like this and add in your own details to meet the mood of your church – and that’s all a welcome speech needs.
WELCOMING YOUR MEMBERS
Being a Pastor is one of the hardest jobs a Christian can take up because it means taking care of all of your church members, both old and new and making sure the perfect mood is set for everyone before the sermon begins. The right welcome message can be a great first step to getting that job done and making everyone feel welcomed.