Visiting a Church Is Scary: Resources to Welcome Guests

Visiting a Church Is Scary: Resources to Welcome Guests

October 9, 2017 by

As we approach Halloween and the crush of ghouls, zombies, and sugared-up children, it’s worth considering one of the scariest things in the church world: Visiting a church for the first time.

Yes, visiting a church as a first-time guest is scary.

We fear the unknown, and walking into a church for the first time is full of the unknown. Even if a church is amazing, as a guest you have no idea what to expect. And, sadly, a lot of churches are not amazing. Especially when it comes to welcoming guests.

Church Visitor Horror Stories

The stories are downright horrifying:

  • Ignoring Children: Visiting a new church is scary enough, but bringing your kids takes it to a whole new level. Especially when it doesn’t go well: One dad visited a church with his daughter and asked about Sunday School on the way home. She replied, “Daddy, they pretended I wasn’t there.” Read more
  • Stalker: What happens with greeters turn into stalkers? Seriously, these guests were cornered by the pastor and two members who forced them to sign the guest book. Read more
  • The Invisible Visitor: An outgoing family stands around after church, actually trying to talk to people, and no one stops to talk. Are they invisible? Read more
  • Reserved Seating: How about getting the evil eye from an older parishioner because you sat in the wrong seat? This happens more often than it should. Read more
  • Wrong Time: What happens when a church’s website has the wrong time and a guest shows up 30 minutes early? It’s a mistake that could be overcome by a welcoming congregation, but not when the guests stand around for 15 minutes and no one talks to them. “After 15 minutes we got in our car and went to the church down the street.” Read more
  • Welcome Room: One church shunted guests off to a special welcome room where they could meet a pastor and get a free gift. Good intentions, but not so great in reality. What’s the opposite of a VIP room? Read more
  • Guest Preacher: Pastors find visiting new churches just as scary. Especially when the church realizes you’re a pastor and asks you to preach that morning. What?! Yep, it happened. Read more
  • Congregation FAIL: A visitor was raising her hands in worship when someone tapped her on the shoulder. When she turned around, the kindly church member told the visitor, “We don’t do that here.” Yikes! Read more
  • Greeter FAIL: Sometimes the greeters can be over-eager, whether they follow visitors to the bathroom or wave off a handshake in favor of a full-body hug. Read more
  • Scarlet Letter: How about making your guests stand out with an embarrassing welcome badge? You think it can’t get worse, but then the congregation proceeds to ignore the welcome badge and not talk to the guest. Read more
  • Firing the Pastor: Perhaps the scariest story of all, a church that held a business meeting immediately following the service to fire the pastor. Read more

Don’t Scare Away Your Guests

So what can your church do to avoid these horror stories and actually welcome guests? We’ve got a few ways to help:

1. All Our Guest Resources

We’ve collected all our resources on welcoming guests into one spot: How to Welcome People to Your Church. We’ve got more than a decade’s worth of blog posts—examples, advice, resources, and more—to help you welcome first-time visitors.

2. Get the Book

We wrote the book on first-time visitors. It’s called Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors by Jonathan Malm. If you want your church to be more welcoming to guests, you need to read this book. You can even grab a free sample.

3. Courageous Storytellers

This month our Courageous Storytellers Membership Site is talking about welcoming guests. We’ve got all kinds of resources, from vocabulary to process, connection cards to guest gifts. As a bonus, members get a digital copy of Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors. Join now to get access to guest resources and so much more.

Be Nice to Guests

Nobody wants to be the scary church that drives away first-time guests. But it happens. It’s hard to remember what it’s like to walk in the door for the first time. So take the time to do it right, especially with Christmas approaching and more visitors coming through your doors.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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One Response to “Visiting a Church Is Scary: Resources to Welcome Guests”

  • Hugh Plappert
    October 10, 2017

    I find it ironic how the Youth Group can do a skit about being Christ to a stranger, yet when there is a new teen visiting the church they claim they don’t know how to great them.



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