Expect New People

This really happened to me.

I walked into a restaurant with my family early in the lunch hour. Like, 11:00 a.m. On the dot. As in, we were the first customers of the day. Surveying the place, I saw…well, nothing. Lots of open tables. And still I was told “give me just a couple of minutes and we’ll have a table for you.” I could see at least 12,000 seating options. But I waited.

As I sat down I intuitively wiped bread crumbs from the table onto the floor and thought, “This doesn’t make sense. There’s no way there have been other customers in here for lunch already.” Of course, the mess had to have been left over from the night before. We then learned that the coffee and tea were still brewing. It would have been okay if the posted opening time was 11:16 a.m. If they needed a few more minutes to prepare the place, I could have waited and shown up then.

Bottom-line? This staff wasn’t ready for us. They weren’t really expecting customers—not this early anyway.

How about your church? Is it apparent that you’re expecting new people? Do first-arriving guests catch you by surprise? Here are some simple ways to communicate “we’ve been expecting you!”

  • A core of people who know the church service isn't all about them, but about others, so they...

    • give up their front parking spaces

    • move to the center of the row, leaving the aisle seats open

    • greet people around them—even when they’re not “on” as an usher or greeter

  • Smiling parking attendants in the parking lot

  • Cordial greeters at entry doors and accommodating ushers throughout the building

  • Signage that points to “new family children’s area” or “guest services”

  • A verbal welcome from the front of the room that includes new guests (without embarrassing them)

  • A program/bulletin that speaks to new people, using “normal” language

  • Visible, accessible “on-ramps” that help new people connect and grow

When your guests show up will they think, “Wow! They acted like they were expecting me and they were happy about it!” Or will they feel as if they’ve crashed a party they weren’t invited to attend?

How are you planning for, and expecting, new guests at your church?


Excerpt from How to Wow Your Church Guests: 101 Meaningful Ways to Make a Meaningful First Impression, Mark L. Waltz, Group Publishing, 2011