Maybe you’ve already put all the right systems in place for your hospitality ministry—training greeters, a well-staffed Welcome Center, and a follow-up system for communications. You’re playing all the right notes, but there’s something missing in the melody. Maybe that missing melody is relational warmth. Without it, guests and “regulars” at your church experience a subtle “disconnect” with the community. Below I’ve listed five common barriers to a welcoming church environment. Do any of them ring a bell?
Barrier 1 | Cliques among members
-Members don’t notice guests.
-Members are friendly only with each other.
-Members do not seem interested in meeting people they haven’t met before.
-Members are overly focused on catching up with their closest friends.
-Members view extending hospitality as something that only designated ushers and greeters do.
Barrier 2 | Lack of a compelling vision for hospitality ministry
-Members do not view extending hospitality as being core to the Gospel message.
-Members do not view extending hospitality as something that should happen at EVERY church activity.
-Members do not view extending hospitality as one of the marks of discipleship—a spiritual practice.
-Members do not always recognize the difference between being a “friendly” church and a “befriending” church.
Barrier 3| Lack of members’ personal ownership in welcoming visitors
-Members/leaders do not personally greet people they haven’t met before.
-Members are not challenged to move beyond their comfort zones when extending hospitality.
-Church leaders do not clearly communicate that all members are part of the hospitality team.
-Members do not introduce themselves to people that are seated near them.
Barrier 4| Lack of volunteers in key ministry areas
-Volunteer(s) to organize and oversee hospitality ministries.
-Volunteer(s) to help invite members into hospitality ministry areas.
-Volunteer(s) to coordinate and schedule hospitality volunteers.
-Volunteer(s) to help train greeters, ushers, and Welcome Center volunteers.
-Volunteer(s) to help recognize and encourage volunteers, such as teachers, worship leaders, and custodians.
Barrier 5| Connecting guests to the congregation
-Lack of a detailed assimilation process; this begins with gathering church visitor contact information and inviting guests to participate in the mission and ministries of the church.
-Lack of an assimilation plan that includes building friendships with guests and engaging them in social networks.
-No process exists for tracking regular guests or following-up when regular guests stop coming.
Questions to Ponder
1. What barriers to a welcoming church environment are prevalent in your congregation?
2. What might your congregation do differently in the future?
3. What might YOU do differently in the future?
4. What resources are needed to address the challenges you are facing?
Jim LaDoux is the longtime Director of Coaching Services for Vibrant Faith. Jim lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife—he has two adult sons. He’s been a coach since 1992, and has a Master of Management Arts and is a certified PCC (Professional Certified Coach).