How to “LINE-UP” to Make Newcomers Feel Welcome

Welcoming new people to your church is one of the pillars of a solid Assimilation System (not to mention a demonstration of Christian hospitality).

But whether we like it or not, many of the people greeting newcomers at our churches aren’t sure how to make others feel welcome.

First impressions are so important that I recommend having a brief training for all of your greeters every Sunday (yes every Sunday).

Recently, I ran across a good article about this from my friend Hal Seed – he asks his people to “LINE-UP” and welcome new people every weekend:

Making Newcomers Feel Welcome

How much time does it take for a visitor to decide whether or not they will return to your church? Experts pose differing numbers on this. Some say as quickly as 90 seconds. Others say three minutes. Still others say they take as long as 12 minutes to decide. Whoever is right, making a good first impression is imperative if you are going to retain first time visitors. Doing this well will change as your church grows.

Churches with attendance under 150 can make a friendly first impression by stationing two or three outgoing volunteers at their front doors. In this size church, newcomers are able to look around the crowd and find the “people like me” pretty quickly. “People like me,” is key to assimilating newcomers in smaller churches.

Once you get to 200 or more, the number of names and faces is large enough that you’ll an exceptionally committed volunteer to be at the door at least 45 weekends a year. Since the average Sunday school teacher only attends church 39 weeks a year, you probably won’t find such a person. Hence, a staff member needs to assume this responsibility. When our church was under 400, my associate pastor met every first time visitor and introduced them to others. If you ask anyone who came during that era, “Who did you meet first?” there answer was always, “Scott Evans.”

Above 400, first impressions must be everyone’s responsibility. The average church welcomes three visitors per week for every 100 attendees. So at 400, you’ll have 12 or more brand new guests each weekend. No one person can meet and introduce them all to someone like them. Welcoming becomes a family affair.

At New Song, I ask our Core to “LINE-UP” every weekend.

L = Look for someone you don’t know.

I = Introduce yourself.

N = Never sit alone.

E = Engage in conversation after the service.

U = Use the RU New Café (our monthly lunch for newcomers).

P = Practice the 3/10 Rule (talk to 3 people you don’t know during the first 10 minutes after the service).

LINE-UP has made us one of the friendliest churches in the world. And it’s scalable, so it ought to work for yours too. Embed the process in your people by teaching it at leadership meetings, new members’ classes, and at least annually in church.

Great stuff Hal – keep up the good work.

How do you teach your people to welcome newcomers?

What can you do this week to help your church become even friendlier than last Sunday?

P.S. To learn the in’s and out’s (and all the details) of fine-tuning your church’s Assimilation System, check out The Assimilation Intensive.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist, working with churches in over 45 denominations. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He first developed the Assimilation System 10 years ago at the Journey Church and has since implemented and improved these strategies with over 3,000 churches across all sizes and denominations. He started coaching pastors in 2006 and has personally coached over 2100+ senior pastors, helping them break common growth barriers like 125, 250, 500, 1000 and beyond, all while maintaining personal life and ministry balance. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has trained more than 50,000 church leaders (3,000+ church planters). He is the author of over 85 church growth resources and 17+ books, including Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests Into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church and The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches. Nelson is married to Kelley and together they have one son, Alexander.

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