Greeting as Ministry

Greeting as Ministry
Charles Arn

How the usher/greeter’s role fits into the ministry of the church. Phillip Johnson, one of the more widely-acclaimed American architects, designed several noteworthy buildings in the country, including the Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California. According to Johnson, the most important part of any structure is the “goes-into.” The “goes-into” is that part or place where a person “goes-into” the experience or the building.

The “goes-into” in a building is what:
* the tee shot is to golf …
* the opening is to a speech …
* the overture is to a symphony …
* the first impression is to a new relationship.

The “goes-into” is what greeters and ushers are for the local church, and, in some cases, for Jesus Christ.

The communication that occurs in the first four minutes of human contact is so crucial that it almost always determines whether strangers will remain strangers or become acquaintances and perhaps friends. If this is true, and it applies to all who walk through our church doors, what an opportunity and challenge it provides to greeters! Those church members who welcome the people God has brought to church have the chance to positively influence these important vistors in those first crucial minutes. In the process, it is the greeters who often hold the key to whether guests return.

As Christians, and especially as greeters, we are representing Christ. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do or say, let it be as a representative of Jesus Christ.” We’re reminded in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that “We are Christ’s ambassadors.” What is an ambassador? The dictionary definition is: “A diplomatic official of the highest rank, appointed and accredited as a representative.” Wow! We are representative officials of the highest rank! That’s what being a greeter is all about—representing Jesus Christ in that first important connection.

In the first greeter’s class I organized, the participants were asked the questions: “As a greeter, how do we want our guests to feel?” “What is our primary responsibility?” “We are the first contact—why are we here?” “What are we trying to achieve?” Here were some of their answers …

* to meet people’s needs
* to put people at ease
* to make people feel our genuine interest
* to make people feel at home
* to make people feel comfortable
* to meet new friends
* to make people feel needed
* to make people want to come back
* to make people feel loved
* to make people feel sincerity
* to keep the ones we have happy
* to make people feel important
* to do pre-evangelism

You might add or delete a few; but it’s not a bad list. Their comments reminded me that William James, Father of American psychology, once said: “The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” John Dewey put it this way: “The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important.” Do you know the first thing convicts ask for when put into jail? If you said the newspaper, you are right. They want to read about themselves. They need to feel important.

If we agree that making people feel loved, appreciated, and important is a primary objective as a greeter, the next question would be, how do we go about doing that? I asked a similar question to my first greeter’s class: “How can we show people we are genuinely interested in them?” “How can we show people that we care?” Here were some of their responses:

* a warm handshake
* a smile
* to listen
* talk in terms of their interests
* remember their names
* maintain eye contact
* touch appropriately

Good responses. Perhaps you can add some more.

Someone once said, “The world is divided into guests and hosts.” You probably know people who are perpetual guests. They never take the responsibility of a host for people’s needs, feelings, concerns, comfort, or hospitality. They seem to exist to be served not to serve—others are always responsible to take care of them. When walking into a room, they seem to say, “Well, here I am. What are you going to do about it?” instead of saying, “Well, look who’s here. It’s great to see you! How have you been?”

When we become a Christian, we are no longer a guest in this world. We become partners with God in hosting life for others. And what do hosts do? They welcome people into their lives. Their first concern is that their guests enjoy themselves and feel acceptance and love. They make their guests feel welcome. They make their guests feel important. Can you recall when someone was an outstanding host for you? A good host is not a position or a task. It is a self-image … a mindset … a lifestyle; especially in God’s house.

This is what greeting is really all about. It is a ministry for every Christian. And, frankly, while our focus here is on what happens around the church doors, it doesn’t stop there. Greeting—being an ambassador, a representative—should carry into every phase of our lives, as Christ-imitators. If our conversation involves patient listening, empathy, understanding, willingness to be vulnerable, sharing our experiences, and being sensitive to areas of need and interest with our guests, we will become people that others truly cannot resist. Without a doubt, they will want to be in our company and, more importantly, in the company of Jesus.

—Charles Arn is president of Church Growth, Inc. (Monrovia, California);
© 2012 Christianity Today/

The above article, “Greeting as Ministry,” is written Charles Arn. The article was excerpted from website, where it was published in July of 2012.

The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”