How to Raise the Guest Awareness of Your Congregation

Every church in America has a guest problem. They may have a huge number of guests showing up each week (a great problem). They may not have had any guests in months (an awful problem). But if the “regulars” in the church aren’t aware that guests are among ’em, that’s the biggest problem of all.

Here’s why: in either case (lots of guests or none at all), regulars need to be regularly reminded that the weekend isn’t all about them. In a lots-of-guests church, that will create an environment of openness and welcome (think “no more territorial rights in pews”). In a little-if-any guests church, that’ll breed an expectation that guests should be there. And according to the greatest theological movie of 1989, if you build it, they will come. 

So here they are: ten practical ways to raise the Guest Awareness Culture on the weekend. (None of these are new or world-changing, by the way. I’ve mentioned most of them on other parts of this blog many times over, and you can click the links to read more. But hey: who doesn’t love a list?)

1. Develop a First Impressions TeamIt seems simple enough, but far too many churches don’t have one. And before ye protest, four guys in matching ties handing out bulletins at the door does is not a First Impressions Team. You need a robust crew of people who are responsible for everything from the parking lot to the pew (or if you don’t have pews, from the street to the seat).

2. Remember that the sermon starts in the parking lotThink outside in when it comes to developing your team. Since people decide whether or not they’ll return to your church within the first ten minutes, it makes sense that you’d do whatever it takes to make the first of those ten minutes the most welcoming. Put plenty of people – at least 40% of your team – on the outside of the doors.

3. Reserve the best spots for your first time guestsYep, I’m talking designated parking. With clear signage. Up front. Obnoxiously close and convenient. Way closer than the pastor or the bishop parks. And speaking of…your staff, volunteers, and other leadership should make a habit of parking farthest away.

4. Have a tent. Forget about your Welcome Center that’s inside the building, past the lobby, down the hallway, take two lefts and a right, and maybe you’ll find it. Nope, but a big obnoxious clearly marked tent right in front of your big obnoxious clearly marked “reserved for first time guests” parking lot. Having a safe place that guests can stop by before they enter will reduce their anxiety and make them feel like they know what’s about to happen.

5. Have a tellFigure out a way to identify your guests. And no, that’s not by making them stand up in the service or slapping a name tag on them that says “guest” in red letters (kid you not, a friend tweeted me that experience as I was writing this post). We use a basic gift bag with our church’s logo on it. It’s not a gift as much as it is a way to pay special attention to those experiencing their first weekend.

6. Talk to ’emFrom the stage. Every week. Multiple times. Again, that’s not singling them out for embarrassment, but acknowledging that guests are present. Talk to your guests so much that your regulars are sick of hearing your spiel, and that’ll be just about the time that the light bulb will come on and they’ll realize…by golly…guests are present.

7. Create a newcomers eventWhether that’s a meet-and-greet after every service or a full fledged monthly meal and class, do something to help guests take a next step. And talk about that from the stage every week, too.

8. Clean up your junkYou’ve long since forgotten about the layer of dust on the communion table or the smudges on the front door’s glass. But your guests haven’t. Prepare for them every week by keeping your facility in top shape.

9. Encourage volunteers to “attend one, serve one.” Here’s the problem with point #1 above: a First Impressions Team does little good if they disperse four minutes after the service begins. If you have multiple services, ask vols to fully worship in one, and fully engage / serve in another. And if you don’t have multiple service, that’s the best reason I know of to add one.

10. Pray for them. Pray that God sends them. Pray that the ones God sends, he will save. Pray that you’ll be proactive in treating them well and inviting them back. Pray that you’ll simply be friendly. The things that you keep before God’s throne, he’ll keep on your heart.

That’s my ten. It’s not exhaustive, by any means. What would you add?

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Danny Franks

Danny Franks

Danny Franks makes his living as a Connections Pastor at the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He also makes a life as the husband of an out-of-his-league hottie and the dad of three cool sons and one sweet princess. His blog,, is a reflection of how he interacts with all of these.

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Recent Comments
In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright
"While I understand the intent behind this phrase" Expound please. What do you understand to be the intent behind that phrase?
— Ken
Thank you for this article! I'm the pastor of a small church. My gifting is in teaching and we are known for aiding Christians in becoming Biblically literate. Visitor's often comment on God's presence being very real in our services. But we just don't seem to be growing. I have some soul-searching, etc. to do and this article provides some solid ground from which to proceed. Thank you again.
— Jonathan Schultheis

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