I thought I’d do a very quick post on some simple tips to meeting and greeting visitors when they come to your church. For some people this comes very naturally, but for many others it’s nerve-wracking and painful – something to be avoided at all costs. I’m often struck by how difficult many people find it to introduce themselves to someone new. So here’s a few things that may help:
- People like being spoken to. We tend to think, ‘Why would they want me, a stranger, to speak to them?’ But in reality most of us like it when somebody makes the effort to say ‘hi’ and welcome us into a group. It’s not weird, it’s friendly – and it’s appreciated.
- Start with a smile. Not a creepy weird stalker smile. Just smile, say hi, and introduce yourself – ‘hi, I’m Martin, nice to meet you.’
- Offer them a drink. I don’t mean invite them out on a date. I just mean, if they’re sat down or standing looking a little lost offer to either grab them a tea/coffee or take them to get one.
- Keep it light. Have a few questions in your mind which are good ice-breakers in any situation – things like ‘have you been before?’ ‘are you new to the area?’ ‘how did you find about the church’? It might be the same 5 questions every time that you learn by rote – that’s fine, if that’s what it takes to get you started. Avoid overly personal questions like, ‘is this fellow the father of all of your children?’ or ‘have you been washed in the blood of the lamb?’ or ‘can you subscribe to the entirety of the 1689 Baptist confession of Faith?’ Obviously no-one would do this (right?), but do just be wary of getting too personal too quick.
- Fill the space. Don’t make them do all the work – talk a bit (that’s a bit, not a lot!) about yourself so it’s a conversation rather than an interrogation.
- Keep it brief. An initial connection only needs to be a few minutes. You don’t need a huge conversation about someone’s entire family history to show you’re pleased to have met them. An overly long or intense conversation with someone you just met can often make the other person uncomfortable. So after a few minutes don’t be afraid to say ‘it’s great to have met you’ and move on. It’s not rude, it just prevents the person you’re talking to from feeling bombarded.
- Involve someone else. Sometimes in conversation you find a ‘connection’ – something that connects that person to someone else in the congregation – it might be a hobby, friend, relative, or work-connection. Why don’t you introduce them – ‘come and meet Paul, he also works at the hospital.’ This helps in two ways – it helps keep the conversation light and brief, and introduces your new friend to one or two others as well. win, win.
- Practise. The more you do it the more natural it will become. Don’t beat yourself up if you stall or put your foot in it. Love covers a multitude of sins and people really will appreciate your kindness and friendliness.
And just a final word on returning visitors – perhaps those who haven’t been around a while. They’ll be especially sensitive to the jokes or questions around where they’ve been and why they haven’t been around. For these people just a friendly welcome, and some normal conversation is the best way to help them settle back in without feeling like they’re being judged.
What do you think? Other hints and tips on how we can do this better?