Tuesday, December 16, 2014

7 Ways to Welcome Church Visitors on Christmas Eve

This is a wonderful piece, written by a wonderful church leader who I have had the privilege of getting to know. I would only extend Carolyn's wonderful advice beyond Christmas Eve!

Thank you Carolyn Chilton!

Merry Christmas!

7 Ways to Welcome Church Visitors on Christmas Eve

wreath outside church
This is a ministry of hospitality and there is no better time than Christmas Eve to warmly welcome your church visitors.

Preparing for Guests
For most of our churches Christmas Eve services are among the best attended and the most important of the year.  And when something is important it takes time to get ready.  An analogy is a Christmas party or dinner in your home.  You spend a lot of time preparing, right?  And I’m sure that one area of preparation for you is hospitality.
How are you making your home not just beautiful but welcoming?  How will you greet people? Do you have enough seating?  Where will you hang all the coats? Is the egg nog ready?  (Okay, that’s MY favorite part of a Christmas party…)
A Church Visitor Checklist for Christmas EveHospitality takes planning for our Christmas Eve services.  Here is a quick and easy check list:
1. Greeters:  This is a ministry of hospitality and there is no better time than Christmas Eve to warmly welcome your church visitors.  Cynthia Weems has written a great article in Leading Ideasabout greeters at Christmas Eve services.  Invite people, especially new members, to be greeters for this one service.  It gives them a chance to serve, meet others, and it gives your regular greeters an evening off.
You will want to schedule more than your usual number of greeters because of the increased attendance.  Make sure they know to welcome people, and help them find the restrooms and the nursery.  It is especially nice – and helpful – to have a greeter or two stand outside the doors to your church and then others on the inside.  There should be greeters at all doors.
2. The Nursery:  It should be open and staffed.  At the church where I work we have two Christmas Eve services: one in the late afternoon and one late at night.  Our Nursery will be open for the late afternoon service as that is the service most heavily attended by families with children.
3. Service Bulletins:  Print extra and be sure that you include information about your church – think of it as a bio on your church.  You’ll have lots of visitors who know little to nothing about you.  So tell them how wonderful you are – brag!  Give regular service times; tell them about programs for various ages, your outreach ministries, any programs that make your church unique. Always include your street address, website address and phone number. You should also include the name and email of clergy and program staff if appropriate.
4. The Service: Remember that you will have many church visitors and many of them will be unfamiliar with your congregation.  An act of hospitality to them is to make participation in worship easy and comfortable.  Announce page numbers.  If you offer Holy Communion, explain how it is administered.  Welcome children, and realize that for this service you will have the beautiful chaos of squirmy and excited children.
5. Your Website:  On the front page of your website put your service times, when the nursery is open, and parking information if needed. You could also add information on special music.
6. Social Media:  If your church has a Facebook page, put your service times and nursery information on it.  You can then “boost” this post to reach more people.  It is a very cost-effective method of marketing that, I have found reaches thousands more people than traditional print advertising.
7. At the end:  Your greeters should be back at all the doors thanking people for worshipping with you and inviting them to join you again.
Thank You’s 
This last tip is not about about welcoming visitors, it’s about thanking everyone who helped create the welcome! The first week of January send a thank you note to everyone who helped make your Christmas Eve services to beautiful.
If you have questions or want to talk more about this please contact me: Carolyn M. Chilton, Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia.  Carolyn@ghtc.org, 804-359-5628.

Carolyn Moomaw Chilton writes and blogs as a spiritual discipline and an invitation to conversation with others. She is currently on staff at Grace and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia as the Assistant for Evangelism and Stewardship.

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