First time visitors or employees can be overwhelmed and discouraged their first day on the job or their first visit to a new church. They should be more than just welcomed when they first arrive. A Running Mate to guide them through the new environment would provide countless benefits later on.
I have been reading a book, It’s Your Ship, by Captain Micheal Abrashoff. I was about half way through it when I came upon a chapter with an ideal that hit me very hard as a way to welcome first time visitors to your church.
Running Mate Program
First time visitors would be meet by a greeter (Running Mate) that will escort them through their first visit at your church. Show them where the rest rooms are located, introduce them to teachers and give them a tour of the church. Introduce them to the pastor and set with them in church.
A tag team approach could be used. When the first visitor arrives, the greeter would then tag the next greeter to stand duty as the escort for new visitors. Each greeter would have a backup who would be standing by as new visitors arrive, they in turn would call up their backup when they step up to the plate to greet new visitors. You would need to have one person at each entrance of the church with a plan to signal their backup as they are called to duty.
Another approach would be to have the lead person contact the next Running Mate, when needed as new visitors come in. Two way radios are so inexpensive now that they could be used as pagers to notify the next greeter that they are needed.
Some things to consider, would be to make sure that if a female visitor is alone, that a female greeter be assigned and if a male visitor is alone, that a male greeter be assigned. If there is a shortage of greeters then Sunday school teachers could follow up with the visitor and sit with them and show them around. Teens could be assigned to another teen to show the teen visitors around and introduce them.
Care must be taken not to push the greeters or the visitors into a program like this too fast. Start out slowly and let the greeters become comfortable with the plan, then add to the plan as needed. The goal is to make the visitors feel at home and not as though they are going through some planned program and will be forgotten the next Sunday when they show up again.
After the greeters have settled into the program, you may want to them be the follow up contact for the new visitor and maybe invite them to a sharing group. The relationship should be on going and care taken not to let the new people get dropped and ignored after a few Sundays.
I can see a great benefit to church growth from this plan, not only will the first time visitor feel welcome and comfortable in your church, they will also get to know more people on the first visit and more church members will get to know the visitors. The Running Mate would also see to it that the gift for first time visitors was given, visitors cards completed and maybe the greeter could even do the follow up as a personal contact from your church.
I believe that a team of at least three for each entrance would be required to start this program. The head of your welcome committee would need to train and set up this program or incorporate the plan into your existing procedures. I am sure that as you develop this plan others would come up with ways to make visitors feel at home in your church.
For companies welcoming new employees, a similar plan could be used be used where some would stay with the new employee through the first few days until the new employee felt at home in the new company.