Getting a Greeter Program Started

By: Carolyn Copeland

Four years ago, when I accepted the challenge of evangelism chairperson for our church, I discovered that, for many years, little had been accomplished in evangelism. No recorded history was available to tell who had served on past evangelism committees or what they had done. I felt as if I had wandered into a wasteland rather than a “fertile vineyard.”

Evangelism, especially the evangelism committee, seemed to strike terror in the hearts of fellow members who were asked to serve. I finally decided we needed to help our congregation overcome their f ear of evangelism.

The Sunday morning greeter program was one of the first programs our pastor and I developed. The way our church is situated, persons who enter the church building from the parking lot have to go through the education wing (or fellowship hall) and make a 45-degree turn down a narrow hallway to the sanctuary. Visitors probably wonder, Where am I going?

The greeter program was initiated to help direct visitors, but it also became a blessing to the entire congregation. This ministry was announced in the church newsletter as one in which everyone could participate. We mainly sought adult greeters, although we allowed children to greet with their parents. Youth classes occasionally made greeting a class project.

Enlisting Greeters

Enlisting greeters was no easy task at first. I started calling people as they were listed in the church directory and asked if they would greet during certain months. I did this at least two weeks before the first
Sunday of each month. If people were reluctant to commit for a whole month, I asked if they would be willing to greet for one Sunday in the month; and since we have two services, I asked if they preferred early or late service and which location–education wing or foyer. The four greeters needed each Sunday sometimes were singles, couples, or whole families.

Sunday afternoon was a good time to telephone people because they had just returned from church and were more receptive. I never insisted a member take a turn. I asked those who declined if I could call them another time. Some said flatly, “It’s not my thing!” Others said, “Not now. Call me later.” I enjoyed talking to those who said, “Yes, we’ll be glad to serve. Put us down for the whole month.” People occasionally told me how much they enjoyed the experience. That was music to my ears. I made a mental note of those members.

I jotted notes beside the names of people who asked to be called later as well as those who refused (some people work on Sundays or have other reasons for not serving). I soon learned who in our 250-member congregation would help with the greeter program.

Reminding Greeters

I gave written reminders to the greeters a week before they were to serve. I either gave the reminders to them in church on the Sunday prior to their service or mailed the reminders the Monday preceding. The reminders included where and when the greeters promised to serve and special instructions, when needed. After members had served one or more times, I replaced the notices with phone calls. Only new greeters received written notes containing special instructions. The evangelism committee sent thank-you notes to greeters after they served.

I kept a greeter chart at home and at church, which made the second year easier. I was then able to say, “You greeted last (name of month). Can I count on you to greet again in (name of month)?” Most greeters volunteered for a whole month the second year; in fact, many of them eventually began signing the greeter chart voluntarily. Greeting became a pleasure rather than a chore for many of the greeters.

Members attended more faithfully during the months they greeted. Most were there every Sunday. The “greeter coordinators, however, always must be prepared to substitute.

I only had to solicit greeters occasionally. Greeters-needed notices were included regularly in the Sunday bulletins and monthly newsletters.

Instructing Greeters

Our requirements for greeters were pretty sketchy the first year. We asked them to smile, be friendly and helpful, and arrive 15-20 minutes before services started. They were asked to greet everyone who came into the church-whether with a handshake or just a smile and a pleasant “good morning.” We also asked them to direct visitors and have them sign the guest book.

Greeters are urged to learn one new name each Sunday. If a greeter does not know a person, he asks, “Are you a member? I don’t believe I know your name. I’m (give your name).” If approached in this manner, most people will say whether they are members and give their names. Some members resent being asked if they are visitors when greeters simply don’t know them.

Our church became more friendly as members learned one another’s names. Greeters’ names were printed in the bulletins and newsletters and on their badges. Some greeters began telling members who were absent the previous week how much they were missed. This practice frequently uncovered family illnesses and other special needs, which were reported to the pastor.

Greeter programs usually are successful if greeter coordinators faithfully enlist greeters, remind them of their commitments, and thank them for serving. Remind greeters of Romans 15:7: “Welcome one another, therefore, as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God”(RSV).

Tip for Sunday Greeters

1. Dress appropriately. You represent your church, pastor, and Savior. Be well-groomed and look your best.

2. Arrive 20-30 minutes before the service. Do not lean against a doorway or table, and do not block traffic.

3. Wear your greeter badge. Your name is optional. The badge itself will let visitors know you can help them.

4. Tell the greeter coordinator in advance if you are unable to fulfill  your obligation.

5. Smile and offer your hand in greeting; however, do not force people to  shake hands. People with arthritic hands, for example, are reluctant to  have them squeezed.

6. Make people feel welcome. Help visitors, even if you must leave your  post to direct them to the rest rooms or church office.

7. Ask visitors to sign the guest book. Introduce them to other greeters  or church ushers when possible. Don’t overwhelm them by introducing  them to too many people.

8. Visit briefly with visitors when possible. Find out where they are  from. Perhaps they are visiting other church members, have recently  moved to the area, or are on a short-term visit.

9. Find out if visitors are familiar with the order of worship. If not,  ask them to sit with members who can help them.

10. Don’t carry on lengthy conversations with friends so that you neglect  visitors.

11. Give information packets to first-time visitors. The packet may contain  a newsletter and brochure. Be sure the packet includes the church’s  name, address, phone number, pastor’s name, worship times, and
emergency telephone number.

12. Project your church’s friendliness to visitors. Remember that your work  is important-that you are serving the Lord and performing evangelism  for His kingdom.

(The above material appeared in the July/Aug./Sept. 1992 issue of Growing Churches Magazine.)

Christian Information Network