5 Things Every Greeter Should and Shouldn’t Convey
by Thomas Bennigan
Thank God for church greeters! They arrive early. They’re super-friendly. And they’re our church’s first line of defense. They are definitely special people with a special gift. I visit a lot of churches and I’ve seen a lot of different greeters. But greeters aren’t only supposed to smile, shake hands and pass out a bulletin.
So here are 5 Things Every Church Greeter Should Convey:
1. “Welcome Home.” The welcome you get when you go to your parents' house for Sunday dinner. The welcome you get when they know your name at your favorite restaurant. That’s how your church guests need to feel whenever they walk in to your church.
2. “You’re in a Safe Place.” Most people who walk into your church work a secular job…have had setbacks throughout the week, and may have recently dealt with either family problems, health problems, or both. They need to feel that they are in a safe place with people who genuinely care.
3. “You Are Important.” Remembering someone’s name. Asking about that issue they asked you to pray about. Giving a compliment or a timely word of encouragement. All of these things add up to conveying to parishioners and visitors one thing: You are important!
4. “I’m Here to Serve.” Many parishioners walk into church with a handful—if not hands full. Bibles…babies…diaper bags. Helping them to their destination (the nursery, worship center, etc.) shows empathy; a quality that the One we’re following also had: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).
5. “Jesus Is Lord.” I once walked into a church, and the greeter—who had never met me before—greeted me with a sincere smile (also known as a Duchenne Smile), and asked if she could prophesy over me (which, by the way, was dead on!). To this day, I’ve never experienced such a greeting that said, “Jesus is Lord over this church!”
On the other hand, I see a lot of churches who…well…let’s just say aren’t running on all cylinders. I know of some churches who have given newcomers second thoughts about returning.
So here are 5 Things Every Church Greeter Shouldn’t Convey:
1. “You’re Not at Home.” I once saw a young couple walk into a church, and before even saying, “Good morning”, the greeter’s eyes scanned them from their shoes, up to their heads. It was the last time I ever saw them. I hope that the greeter’s faux pas wasn't a catalyst for making them never want to attend any church again. Help us, Jesus.
2. “The Conversation I’m Having with Another Greeter is more Important.” Yikes. Please don’t let this happen at your church. Another problem with greeters chatting with each other when a parishioner or visitor walks in, is that it could look like they are talking about that person who is walking in.
3. “Are You New Here?” While we want to connect with new people, asking people if they’re new is one of the worst things a greeter can do. What if you ask, “Are you new here?” and their reply is, “No, I’ve been attending here for several weeks, and you’ve asked me that before.” Ouch.
4. “The Service Has Already Started.” Every church has people who run late, and everyone who is running late knows that they’re late. So why go out of your way to state the obvious? Is it really a good idea to correct them as they’re walking in? As Christians, we’re commanded simply to love God and love people (Mark 12:30-31). Nowhere does the bible say that we're to be condescending and self-righteous.
5. “Are You Alone?” This seemingly simple, 3-word question can have a multitude of negative inferences: ‘Why aren’t you married?’ ‘Don't you have any friends?’ ‘Why are you alone?’ After my father died, my mother moved to another state to live with my sister. She decided to visit a new church one Sunday and the greeter asked, "Are you alone?" My mother said that she felt like crawling under a rock. Being friendly and conversational is one thing, but coming off as intrusive, nosey and condescending is quite another.
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