I read an interesting article entitled What to Say to a Church Visitor. I especially appreciated the opening paragraph:
Greeting church visitors is everyone’s responsibility. However, it doesn’t always get done so many churches have organized greeting teams to serve a few weeks in a row.
The same principle applies in Sunday School. You would think this would not be a problem in Sunday School. Classes are smaller than worship attendance. The group should be able to recognize when someone is a guest. But, as I have said before, when it is everyone’s job this often results in no one taking responsibility for the job. It often has to be assigned in order for the job to be done. And frequently when it is someone’s job, then many others will join in carrying out the work–in this case greeting guests.
I believe Sunday School class greeters need training. Some people are naturally gregarious and yet they still may not know the best things to say and do as a class greeter. That is why I wanted to share the points from the above-mentioned article. It offers some concrete suggested which are directed toward welcoming “church visitors” but which can easily be applied to welcoming Sunday School guests. The article mentions three times/places where we need to greet guests: entrances, the front, and after. Allow me to adjust the article’s suggestions to apply to the class:
- ENTRANCE: As members and guest enter, welcome them to the class. Use the name of the class. It can help them to know which one they liked and want to return to. Look them in the eyes. Make sure you smile. Put in a breath mint. Don’t be afraid to shake hands, but don’t squeeze too hard. Don’t pound people on the back–I learned this lesson the hard way with a lady who had just had shoulder surgery. Tell guests that you are glad they are here today. Share your name with those you don’t know. (They will usually share their names in return.) Listen carefully when guests speak. If the class uses name tags (recommended), make sure you complete one for them or ask them to do so. Call guests by name and tell them you (or the teacher) would like the privilege of introducing them to the class in a few minutes and ask if they would be willing to complete a registration card. Sit with them during class–if possible. Introduce them to others around them. Don’t be afraid to ask if adult guests would like to join (on the first and successive Sundays). Invite guests to join you at the next class fellowship or invite them to your home for dessert or a meal.
- FROM THE FRONT: During announcement time, make sure to introduce guests to the group (so everyone has an opportunity to hear the guests’ names hopefully again). Keep this somewhat low-key for the guests who may be a little less comfortable socially. When you (or the teacher) introduce them, make sure you avoid embarrassing them. Check on any uncertainty in name pronunciation. Don’t be afraid to look at the guest registration card to make sure you call the correct names. Give the teacher the card so he/she can thank guests for joining in the group at the end of the lesson. Include them in small group activities. Be open to their input during the lesson without forcing them to talk.
- AFTER CLASS: Ideally class greeters are not choir members who have to leave class early or rush out at the end of class. The teacher’s words of appreciation of the guests at the end of class should be a reminder that members should also affirm the guests’ attendance. These moments just after the end of class are critical for conveying your interest in guests. Don’t rush out of class and ignore the guests. Smile. If possible, call them by name (especially easy when they are still wearing name tags). What to say can be as simple as shaking their hands and saying, “My name is … and I glad you were in the … class with us today.” (Can be easier for them to remember your name when you are still wearing your name tag.) As the class greeter, ask guests if they need you to help them locate their children and/or restrooms. If so, walk them there. If worship is after Sunday School, ask if they are staying for worship today. If so, walk them to worship. Engage in casual (not nosy) conversation and express your own appreciation of their attendance in Sunday School. When you arrive in worship, ask if the guests would like to sit with you. If they do so, casually introduce them to others in worship before the service begins. In worship, watch guests to see where they may be confused or need help. Do so to encourage and help without embarrassing. After worship thank them for attending. Ask if they have any questions or prayer requests. Contact them within 72 hours to express your appreciation, remind them of the upcoming class fellowship, and pray with them about prayer requests.
What else have you found helpful to say to (or do with) a guest? Engage in active listening. Care–do it and have it. Be present. Don’t embarrass. Be sensitive. Help. Be revolutionary!