Let’s face it, a lot of historic church buildings are old and in need of some attention. There isn’t much warmth, colour or comfort available, and yet we want to ensure a warm welcome for everyone to our venues, especially on a Sunday.
Churches that have taken over industrial units, former office blocks, or hire school halls, don’t necessarily fare much better. It can be expensive to convert a building and tricky if you are just hiring it.
If you have ever been in one of the swanky law firms in London or big banks in Docklands, the contrast is striking at first: spotlessly clean, shiny surfaces, lots of glass and luxurious chairs in the waiting areas. You can feel the wealth, but not the welcome.
We all know that a welcoming venue is experienced in the thoughtfulness and care of the team responsible for greeting us. Here’s a list of things to consider, whatever building you own or rent.
- Are visitors sent a map in advance? Are they told where they can park?
- Is the signage good or might they struggle to find the building or correct entrance?
- Are they greeted with a smile on arrival?
- Are they offered a drink, either on arrival or afterwards?
- Is there somewhere to leave their coat safely?
- Are children greeted and welcomed in their own right?
- Is the provision of a crèche or children’s work explained clearly?
- Are they shown to an appropriate seat (what if they have mobility problems or a pushchair with them?)
- Will someone in leadership greet them and engage in meaningful conversation?
- Is someone keeping an eye on the temperature, the fire exit, the trip hazards and the toilet facilities?
- Is provision made for needs such as non-English speakers, the hard-of-hearing, those with mobility problems, babies?
- What happens if people arrive late?
- How will visitors be followed up? Is the process followed?
While there are many practical things we can do to provide a warm welcome, they only work if there is a team with a heart to welcome people. We want our welcome teams to serve those arriving as Jesus would. A heart that can see things from the perspective of a new person. And not just new people. Those who have been coming for 40 years also want to feel welcome.
At LifeLine Church, we have still to work on these things. Indeed, we need to revisit all areas of ministry from time to time, to share the vision and values of serving. Currently, we are reviewing our welcome arrangements on a Sunday morning. Get in touch if you have an experience or insight to share.