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Fluent in Friendliness

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My wife, daughter and sister in law were driving cross country, from Virginia to Oregon. On Sabbath, they had to stop in the state of _______ and decided to attend church there. They pulled in with their U-Haul truck, also towing a car. Nothing says “I’m from somewhere that is NOT here” like a U-Haul! They were lukewarmly greeted at the door, skated down the aisle, endured worship by themselves in the pew, and left without being invited to lunch. This was a medium size church, next to an academy, a church that seemed healthy. I wonder, if that is an isolated incident.

No one believes they have an anti-visitor church. Very few people describe their congregation as cold. I can’t imagine that church members purposefully want to send an anti-social message to newcomers. Yet, it happens all the time. Here are 3 things you can do, to become a visitor friendly church.

1. Connect with people at times OTHER THAN the regularly scheduled opportunities. There are three times people usually get greeted:

*When they come in.

*At the “welcome” portion of the service.

*As they leave.

It’s the rest of the time that sends a message whether you are a friendly church or not. In the three times I mentioned, you are REQUIRED to. When you make an effort to connect outside those, the chances of them returning increase. It’s a sin for a visitor to sit by themselves.

2. Be sensitive in the “welcome” portion of the service. Who likes to stand up, and remain standing, while 200 eyeballs are on them? The answer is…NOBODY! In a survey with visitors, this practice is what they despised the most. To complicate matters even further, (at least in Hispanic churches) they call visitors the “flowers” of the congregation that day. That sends two wrong messages: The members are the thorns. Maybe accurate, but no need to rub it in and Pancho, the hard living macho man, does not like being called a delicate flower!

This practice is done more for us than for them. Stop it.

3. Don’t smother, or overwhelm. Both extremes are equally annoying. Visitors don’t speak “Adventese”. They don’t know what Camp-meeting, ABC, AY, elders, or Conference, mean. Please speak: short, English, with a smile. I have made my case before that announcements were probably created by Jesuits that have infiltrated our church. They must have. This is not 1812. People can read. Give them a bulletin and maybe, an announcement or two, BEFORE the service is over.

Hoping that these suggestions can improve our visitor retention. What are other ways you purposefully connect with newcomers?
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Roger Hernandez
Roger Hernandez is the Ministerial and Evangelism Director for the Southern Union. He has served in the ministry for over 20 years. He is a motivational speaker and has spoken at division, union and conference events as well as at SEEDS, the church planting conference run by NADEI (North American Division Evangelism Institute) in Berrien Springs, Michigan, as well as camp-meeting, leadership conventions, and trainings. Pastor Hernandez is fully bi-lingual and has presented to many groups as well as done evangelism training and crusades. He is the author of 5 books, his most recent Epic Fail. He was born in Cuba and is married with four children. He also blogs regularly at leadsu.org
Roger Hernandez

Latest posts by Roger Hernandez (see all)

Roger Hernandez

Roger Hernandez is the Ministerial and Evangelism Director for the Southern Union. He has served in the ministry for over 20 years. He is a motivational speaker and has spoken at division, union and conference events as well as at SEEDS, the church planting conference run by NADEI (North American Division Evangelism Institute) in Berrien Springs, Michigan, as well as camp-meeting, leadership conventions, and trainings. Pastor Hernandez is fully bi-lingual and has presented to many groups as well as done evangelism training and crusades. He is the author of 5 books, his most recent Epic Fail. He was born in Cuba and is married with four children. He also blogs regularly at leadsu.org

This Post Has One Comment
  1. My husband and I were from a medium sized town where we were members in a Spanish church half of our married lives, then moved our membership to an English speaking church when our children were teenagers.

    In 1999 we moved to the Capitol of our state where there are at least fifteen Seventh-day Adventist churches. We visited at least half a dozen and NEVER felt welcomed. We even attended a church where in Sabbath School the topic was being friendly to non-members and how to keep members in church. We thought maybe this will be the church. No such luck. After the class was over NO one turned to talk to us. NO one said welcome. As we were leaving after the main service we turned around and I greeted the people behind us. I asked if they were members. They were visiting. I told them we were visiting too.

    We finally found a home church. At a certain time during the announcements we are asked to stand up and say hello to others. I have made it a point to say hello to everyone I don’t know. Not just a courtesy hello and welcome. I find out where they are from and ask a little bit about them and if there is potluck, I ask them to stay. I WANT them to feel welcomed! I wish we were treated warmly. Sorry your family wasn’t.

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