NASHVILLE (BP) — Church members think of themselves as a welcoming bunch — but they tend to be friendly only to one another, says LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Thom S. Rainer.
Most guests feel as though they’ve crashed a private party, Rainer found after extensively surveying church visitors.
His latest book, “Becoming a Welcoming Church,” released March 1 from B&H Publishing Group, offers a game plan for churches to become more hospitable.
Rainer discusses several tangible markers churches should have in place to leave a positive impression on guests — and to encourage them for a return visit:
— Clear directional signs and easy-to-navigate websites.
— Visible safety measures — particularly for children.
— A clean, well-maintained facility.
— Outgoing, engaging people to greet guests, answer questions and offer guidance.
For a congregation to become hospitable, Rainer explained, it must be a spiritually healthy church that studies the Scripture, spends time in prayer and disciples its people. He said being an inviting church and being a healthy church have a clear connection.
“A healthy church engages the community,” Rainer said. “People are growing to greater maturation in Christ, and there is greater unity in the healthy church. There are fewer distractions, fights, bullying and criticism. A healthy church is focused on reaching and inviting.”
Each chapter of Becoming a Welcoming Church concludes with discussion questions for individual reflection or group dialogue. The book’s appendices provide audit forms for evaluating a church’s facilities and a secret guest survey to allow visitors to provide feedback on their experiences.
As a companion to Becoming a Welcoming Church, B&H simultaneously released “We Want You Here,” a resource intended for churches to send home with guests to give them a vision of the local church’s ministry and to encourage them to reflect on their visit.
For more information on Becoming a Welcoming Church, visit http://welcoming.church.