In our churches, we focus a lot on welcoming visitors with the hope of them becoming regular worshipers. But what about people just passing through for a vacation or a holiday weekend? Though these vacationing visitors aren’t as likely to become members, it’s important to create a welcoming atmosphere while still acknowledging that they may not stay long term. As we move into the summer months, here are some ways your church can cater to these short-term visitors.
Make sure your church is findable online and in print directories.
When people are on the road these days, it’s common for them to do a quick Google search for restaurants, gas stations, and local attractions, and they can do the same thing with places of worship. It’s essential that your church shows up when people search for churches, whether online or through a maps app. Talk to the person who manages your church’s website, and ask them to look into using Google My Business to get started with this.
On the other hand, there also are travelers who prefer recommended places of worship. Hotel directories are still a great place for this. Make sure the church’s address and worship times are included in the listing.
Make sure the website is up to date.
If worship times have recently changed, or if Bible study or Sunday School only happen during the school year, make sure this is clearly indicated on the website. A visitor may feel embarrassed showing up at the wrong time. Also, parents will want to know what to expect for their children, such as whether their kids will attend a separate children’s worship or if they should plan to stay after for Sunday School.
Mark off visitor parking spots.
It’s always a nice courtesy to make sure visitors have a close place to park, and it can help them feel that there will be a place for them inside. If your church has high attendance, visitors may especially appreciate the close parking spot.
Put up clear signage.
Use yard signs and door signs to point people to the correct entrance to avoid confusion. Have signs directing people to the sanctuary and to the bathrooms so they know where to go. If you have a large building, consider displaying a simple map in the front lobby as well.
Include a bulletin insert listing events during the week.
If vacationers will be in town for a few days, make sure they know about Bible studies, VBS, midweek services, and any other goings-on during the week. They may be looking for an activity to balance out their vacation schedule. Parents may jump at the chance to drop their kids off for an hour or two to have some time to themselves.
Specifically welcome visitors during and after the service.
When the pastor greets the congregation at the beginning or end of the service, it’s a great touch to have him say something like, “We extend a special welcome to people who are visiting today.” This can help visitors see that people at your church are welcoming and open to new faces. This is also a great time to invite visitors to Bible study, coffee hour, or Sunday School. An invitation from another person can seem even more sincere than a written announcement.
Give visitors gift bags.
A gift bag can add to the friendly nature of a person’s visit and can give them something physical with which to remember your church. Include small items that are easy to travel with, like a bookmark. It’s always nice to include a sweet treat, like a small candy bar, coffee, or hot chocolate. And of course, give them something to sustain them spiritually as they go out from the worship service; a small devotional book like Portals of Prayer is perfect for this.