How to Treat New People at Church

Pastor greeting church visitor
Make visitors feel welcome at church, and they are likely to return. Walter Jimenez/Hill Street Studios/Getty Images

Have you ever attended a church you've never been to before and felt awkward—like you didn't belong there? Or have you gone to worship at a church where no one bothered greeting you or asking if they could help you? Apparently, this is common and can make the difference between the visitors returning or never coming back.

Many people are uncomfortable going to a new church because they don't feel as though they fit in.

If you want to be welcoming to new folks and visitors, here are some things you should consider doing to put them at ease.

Greet People with Sincere Kindness

Whether you are an official greeter for your church or you just like to say hi to people you have never met, look them in the eye, shake their hands, strike up a conversation, and make small talk for a couple of minutes. State your name and ask them something specific, such as where they are from or if they are looking for a new church to attend. Try to find a way to relate to something they said.

Meet People at Visitor Parking

If your church has parking that is designated for visitors, stand nearby and greet people who park there. Their visit will be much less daunting if they have someone who is friendly and willing to walk into the church with them. As you enter the church, introduce them to others.

Be Kind to Other Members

Visitors are watching to see how church members interact.

If they see cliquishness or antagonistic behavior, they are likely to never darken the doorway again. Showing kindness to each other is a positive thing and is how you should act everywhere, especially in church.

Offer Refreshments

If your church has coffee or snacks, ask your visitors if they would like some.

And then walk them over to the refreshment table. Many people are reserved and uncomfortable about helping themselves without an invitation.

Offer Them a Seat

If you have a chance to chat with the visitors before church, ask if they have a preference of where to sit. If not, help them find a comfortable spot. It's even nicer if you sit with them. If you're unable to, say a few kind words about how you hope they enjoy the service and that you hope to have a chance to talk with them after the service.

Explain What is Happening

Your visitors may not be familiar with the order of your church services, so give them a hand and explain what is happening. Point out anything in the church bulletin that might help them. Open a hymnal to the page and offer it to them. Encourage them to ask questions about anything they don't understand. Many churchgoers speak "Christianese," a language that is foreign to those who don't attend regularly. Be aware of that and try to use terminology that isn't so off-putting.

Help with the Visitor's Children

If the visitor has children, fill them in on what is available for them. Take them to the children's classrooms or keep them in mind when finding them a seat in the sanctuary.

Most people appreciate when others are nice to their kids.

Introduce the Visitors to the Pastor or Other Church Leaders

After church, don't be in a big hurry to leave. Seek out the visitors and introduce them to the church pastor, worship leader, and anyone else in a leadership role. This makes the visitors feel special and appreciated. It also gives them a chance to ask questions.

Follow Up Later

A couple of days after the visitors attend the service follow up with a phone call and ask them to meet with you. Some people like to visit the newcomers in their home, but they might be more comfortable meeting in a coffee shop or breakfast café.

Thank Them for Attending

Regardless of your visitors' decision to return, thank them for coming. Even if they don't think they want to worship with you in the future, things change.

Many people base their decisions on what church to join on the manners of the members—and sometimes it takes a while to decide.