A hand, a hug, a friendly smile
The first faces most people will see when they come to Holy Cross are those of GREETERS. We are the kind of parish that people visit. As a ‘resort’ community, North East attracts vacationers; since we are on major highways, people stop in on their way to other destinations. We are also in an area where a huge proportion of residents are ‘unchurched’, and we have a clear duty and opportunity to engage these people and offer them fellowship with God and a parish community.
The task of inviting people to worship and parish events is the responsibility of the Outreach task force. But once they get in the door, we want to offer them an experience of ‘church’ that makes them want to come back – that’s the job of the ministry of Welcome.
It would be hard to overemphasize this ministry in the church. In the light of Jesus’s own teaching, it could be said that welcoming people is the most important thing we do. Doing the tasks of this ministry well requires more than just the good will and good intentions that are so much a part of our parish’s culture. We also need clear ideas of what we want to accomplish, and a plan (and skills) for accomplishing that result.
Before the service:
- Offer a warm ‘hello’ as you hand them a bulletin, a visitors’ leaflet and a guest-registration card. Introduce yourself in such a way as to encourage them to return the favor. If it seems natural, ask their name and where they are from. (You can do this by saying ‘I don’t think we’ve met, have we?’ or ‘Have you been to Holy Cross before?’– you don’t have to be ‘overwhelming’ about it.)
- Ask if they are familiar with Episcopalian worship (this is more suave than saying ‘are you an Episcopalian?’). Ask if they would like a cushion, hearing aid or large-print worship materials.
- Introduce them by name, if possible – or by saying something like ‘I’ve just been talking to one of our guests today’ – to the other greeter.
- Ask if they would like to sit with a regular member, and snag one to introduce them to, if so. Invite them to sign the Guest Register when they leave, and stay for coffee hour after the service.
During the service, the GREETERS’ work goes on:
- Check to see that the guests have the proper books in their pews. If they appear to be having difficulty finding way through them, it is easy to simply hand them a Prayer Book or Hymnal open to the proper page. At communion, you can approach them with ‘You’re very welcome to go up too’, if they seem to be unsure of whether or not to partake.
After the service:
- Re-connect with the guests as they leave worship to invite them to sign the Guest Register and attend the coffee hour. Escort them to the parish hall if they express an interest in staying, and introduce them to at least one or two members who can accompany them while there.
- When your other duties are done, sit down with the guests and continue the conversation. Direct it to their interests and needs – is there some way in which Holy Cross can respond to some immediate situation in their lives? Can we offer something special that they may be seeking? Is there a place for them in Holy Cross’s life that seems like a good ‘fit’?
- Make sure that they receive a Welcome Bag, and give them a quick survey of the contents (which you will, of course, be familiar with), emphasising that you hope they will enjoy getting to know more about us, and noting the places and people they can call to find out anything else they would like to know.
- After the guests leave, review their registration form, if they have filled it out, note on it anything about their visit that you think needs to be documented, and refer it to the priest and the designated VISITOR for that month, so that follow-up procedures for visiting, etc., can be set in motion.