By Tim Massengale
The story is told of a pastor and his wife who were on their way home from a Bible conference. It was their normal Bible study night and they were still several days’ drive from home so they decided to attend church that evening in an upcoming town.
They arrived in town around dinner time and stopped to eat at a local restaurant before going on to church. As they drove into the restaurant parking lot a lot-attendant directed them to an open parking space. As they approach the door, a door-keeper greeted them and opened the door. After stepping inside the maitre’d greeted them with a smile and said, “Table for two? It will only be a minute. Can I get you something to drink while you wait?”
They were soon seated and the maitre’d introduced them to their waiter, who recommended the evening specials and soon took their order. After a delicious meal they paid the casher who smiled sweetly and encouraged their soon return. The last thing they saw was the lot attendant waving good-by.
Then they drove on down the street to the church.
No one met them in the parking lot. No one greeted them at the door. No one greeted them in the vestibule. No one showed them to a seat. No one came by to welcome them. They sat through a rather dry Bible study and afterwards only the pastor stopped to speak and upon finding out he was a visiting pastor expressed regret he had not known so he could have had him testify. After a brief chat the visiting preacher and his wife went out to their car and drove off.
Turning to his wife, the pastor remarked, “You know, my dear, if they had both given an invitation, I believe I would have joined the restaurant.”
An effective visitor reception and visitor follow-up program should be a high priority in every church. Why? Well, first, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And secondly, your visitors are, without a doubt, your very best prospects for salvation. Consider the following reasons:
- Ninety percent of the visitors that come to your church know someone within your church. Most of our churches have few “walk-ins.”
- They are often searching for something spiritual or they would not have come.
- They (hopefully) felt the power of God in your service.
- Most important, the Word of God was planted in their heart by the power of preaching.
- And finally, most all that receive the Holy Ghost in our services have come more than one time. Having now come the first time, we can begin working to get them back again. Each visit increases their chances of going to the altar.
For a church to neglect so great an opportunity as their visitors and spend money, time and effort on a less likely prospect, is poor judgment. Every effort should be given to make each visitor feel welcome, wanted, and involved in the service. We should ‘roll out the red carpet,’ so to speak.
What makes a visitor feel comfortable and their visit a spiritual experience? Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, that ye have love one to another (John 13:35).” When love is honestly being expressed, visitors will sense a genuine welcome and concern. People do not necessarily feel welcome by the mechanical things we often do to welcome them (i.e., greeters at the door, filling out cards, or pulpit welcome). Instead, visitors sense welcome when saints go out of their way to speak to them and be friendly. Assigned greeters are good. Everyone being a greeter is better. To this end the church must be taught and continually encouraged.