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March 24th, 2010

by Craig Groeschel

15 comments (+ Add)

The Small Things: The Gift Basket (and other hospitality)

Celebration Church does a tremendous job hosting. When we arrived to our room, they blessed us with a very thoughtful gift basket.

It was packed with water, snacks, and goodies to munch on. On top of the treats, they gave our kids beach toys, sunscreen, and an underwater camera. Since we were going to stay for four days, they even gave us a gift card to the local grocery store.

When we left, one of their staff members met us at the airport (even though I told him not to) to help us return our van and transport our baggage. I’d never expect that kind of generous treatment but was grateful for their acts of selfless and thoughtful hospitality.

When people visit our churches, I want them to know we were thinking about them before they arrived.

What do you do to make guests feel welcome?

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  1. Mar 24, 2010 at 6:26 am

    Without a doubt this is something we DO NOT do well. I mean, we are friendly and I watch our people walking around greeting people but we have no follow up except for a note from me. We do have a coffee table with water, coffee & hot chocolate (which is a start) but we do have to figure out a better way to do this whole first impression thing. As a side: I serve a church in Indiana. Sun screen, etc would not work. :)

  2. Mar 24, 2010 at 6:27 am

    To be honest this is not something that the church I pastor does a good job at and I am looking forward to some good ideas.

    We do give a welcome packet telling about us but I think that falls far short of where it need to be.

  3. Mar 24, 2010 at 8:01 am

    I’m part of a re-plant north of Orlando, Florida. While we don’t have this figured out, here are few things we’ve started doing:

    1. We’ve moved our “start time” from 10:30 to 10, and spend 30 minutes (over free Coffee / Donuts / OJ / Tea / etc) just hanging out before the service. We felt like it was a good opportunity to get to know the people who were coming in and also feed them a snack.

    We’ve seen a lot of positive response from new comers and our congregation appreciates the chance to chat with everyone.

    2. In the way of follow up, our lead pastor sends out a hand written note on Monday after a first-timer comes to church. We average between 2 - 5 first-timers each week, so this isn’t a huge burden on him.

    3. On Wednesday of that same week we send out a small plant with our name and information attached. People typically get this Friday or Saturday and it serves the dual purpose of reminding them about the upcoming Sunday services as well as giving them a nice gift.

  4. Mar 24, 2010 at 8:02 am

    I do not run a church, but I do run a home/business and I volunteer at Church…When people come to my home to visit. I always have a basket full of small things for them to have during their stay. New soap, scrunchie, candy, water, little game…something to always make them feel welcome. I have an at home photo studio and I always have a spread of fruit, snacks, chocolate, fresh baked goods and water/tea for the clients..I tell people my home is your home…If you can’t find something “keep looking”LOL! or ask me. I want people to feel welcome/ comfortable…

    At Church…I slowly invest in people outside church. I have asked two couples for two years each to come and they finally did recently! They came because of investment in them and I did not bang them over the head with “turn or burn” tactics (God let them know when ready was)…At church, Idescided to take action. introduced them to as many people as I could…sat next to them in worship, took them around personally and helped with child check in. (Ministry IDEA!!!) I think if churches could have an assigned person to “hang out” with newbies or lonely folks (about the same age/life walk)…for two or more weeks and have them connect with a HANDWRITTEN “It was Great meeting you” note..what an impact…Facebook is great but PERSONAL Touch is Priceless!!!!

    My hubby will be in Chicago Thursday working and was hoping to come to the conference but can’t make it because the car auctions are all day…Hope it’s a great one…I know Mike is bummed to miss it.

  5. 6Ben
    Mar 24, 2010 at 8:19 am

    Interesting. I think if I specifically asked someone not to meet me at the airport, and he came anyway, I would feel annoyed and insulted. Clearly, Craig, you don’t feel this way. I guess everyone is different, and this is something to keep in mind when thinking about hospitality: what will seem a blessing to some might seem intruding to others.

  6. Mar 24, 2010 at 8:20 am

    At a smaller church like mine it’s pretty easy for me to spot guests. I simply look them in the eye, shake their hand and say, “It’s great to have you with us today”. I trust the love of God flows through me.
    I just emailed all my key leaders yesterday and challenged them to find one new way they can show love to people this Sunday.

  7. 8Chuck McKennell
    Mar 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    When guests come to our church they are greeted outside and then greeted inside. The inside greeters lead the guests to the coffee, cokes, danish platter and such. Then if they have children we lead them to the childrens check in station. Then deliver the children to their experiences. we do follow up with cards and emails.

  8. Mar 24, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    It seems like there are two different (but related) threads here. I read Craig’s post as a demonstration of hospitality for a guest speaker. Most of the responses indicate hospitality for a church visitor.

    Although both are forms of hospitality, the first shows a level of appreciation for the commitment of the speaker (and family) to come and serve the congregation. It appears that Celebration Church excels here. As a frequently invited speaker myself, these little touches soften the inevitable stress that comes with travel. I also appreciate when my hosts provide their “local knowledge” of restaurants and not to be missed sights in the local area.

    The hospitality we show our congregational visitors is just as important. I appreciate the comments already made. In addition, we’ve tried to have our outreach team share the “local knowledge” about our congregation, such as which bathrooms tend to be less crowded after a service. In addition, the Senior Pastor calls each visitor on Sunday night to thank them for coming and gently see how they learned about our congregation. We have found that our visitors tend to become members.

    I look forward to hearing even more ideas from ya’ll.

  9. Mar 24, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    When I was interviewing at Skyline in San Diego they did the same thing. That never left me. They had my name and my brides name and a great welcome. The basket was nice and the reception was great…I think it really shows core values of a place…what I did not understand was that not all churches interview this way… :)

  10. Mar 25, 2010 at 10:04 am

    We try to treat everyone who visits like family. If your in-laws or favorite relatives were coming for a stay, how would you greet and treat them? Would you make them rent a car, find a hotel and google map your location? No, you would pick them up, load their luggage, have snacks and waters waiting after travel. You would bring them into your house and prepare your best meals, etc. You would make them feel at home.

  11. Mar 26, 2010 at 12:37 am

    [...] they didn’t answer the phone for a wake up call. The one that really struck me was how much he appreciated the gift basket that the host church prepared. They included little things like sun block for the kids, bottles of water, and even a few little [...]

  12. Mar 26, 2010 at 12:38 am

    [...] they didn’t answer the phone for a wake up call. The one that really struck me was how much he appreciated the gift basket that the host church prepared. They included little things like sun block for the kids, bottles of water, and even a few little [...]

  13. Mar 31, 2010 at 10:42 am

    We try and do everything we can to be warm, friendly and welcoming. Handshakes and hugs are frequent to new people and regulars too. I definately need to do a better job about some things.

    One thing that I implemented that has seemed to go over well, is that I put an anonymous form on our website and actively encourage anyone (first time guest to long time attender) to get on there and let us know about their experience with us. I want to know what we do well, and where we need to do better.

    The anonimity seems to go over well with everyone and we have recieved some really good feedback.

    I think just letting people know that we value their opinions and want to hear from them goes a long way in letting them know that they are valued, even if it is their first time visit with us.

    Just a suggestion.

  14. 15shannon
    Apr 1, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Assuming that you mean welcoming visitors, I think our church does this better than any I’ve ever seen. (We are a military family who moves often, so we’ve been members many places.)

    My husband, 9-year-old daughter and I serve together as part of one of five care teams. That means, once every five weeks, it’s our care team’s turn to welcome visitors. First, care team members wear name tags and station ourselves at all entrances to the building to greet everyone. Then later, during the service, the pastor has the ushers pass out visitor cards to people who identify themselves as first-time visitors (by all others standing while they remain seated). He encourages them to fill out the standard info and also — more importantly — to include any prayer requests they would like for us to prayer for during the service.

    After the service has progressed long enough for them to have time to fill out the cards, our pastor calls the care teams forward en masse and explains what we do, and we proceed to collect cards. He assures visitors that their care team members will be praying for their specified prayer needs during the service — which we do. Our family works one section of our large auditorium — even my daughter Chloe goes with us and helps collect cards and shake hands. As we collect cards, we explain that we’ll return at the close of the service to escort them to the hospitality room to meet our pastor. We encourage them and tell them how much he would like to greet them personally, but if they refuse, we don’t push. Then we exit to a private room, pray for the visitors’ needs, and redistribute cards if, for example, one section had lots of visitors and another had none. We keep copies of the visitor cards and memorize their names during the service before we escort them to the hospitality suite afterward. During that short fellowship time, care team members mingle with the visitors and try to get to know them a little. When the pastor comes in, care team members introduce their visitors as he makes his way around to each of them. Over the following weeks, each care team family delivers a gift (candy cup, already assembled and provided by the church office) to the visitor, calls to check on prayer needs, etc., with the outline goal of making at least one contact per visitor per week if appropriate. We keep a record of our results so that our senior pastor can keep them in his files and randomly call visitors as God directs his heart to do so.

    At the end of the five week period, our responsibility to the previous wave of visitors has run its course, and we start over again. It’s a brilliant system which certainly made us feel warmly welcomed when we were visitors — so much that we were eager to be care team members ourselves once we joined.

    We are a large and dynamic church with many outreach ministries throughout the community and a well-managed care team system. The care teams are possible and successful because so many people are serious about evangelism and are willing to serve. Consequently, we rarely see a week (or even a service) go by without folks either being saved, getting baptized, and/or joining our church.

    I hope this was helpful to you and other readers. We love to share this system when this subject comes up, because we’ve simply never seen it done better.