The Greeting Ministry.
Before Starting, let me tell you this article is the result of various researches done on the topic by many organizations. I choose different colors to denote different aspects. For example, the letters in red color and bigger fonts are what you will say to the visitors, while the bold, italic, and bigger fonts are the main points of the topic. As you will see, this service is very essential to every church, and it should be the first to consider when starting evangelistic activities in any church.
What Is The Greeting Ministry?
When I talk about the ‘Greeting Ministry,’ I am referring to the few people from the congregation of the church who wait at the entrance of the church to welcome the visitors to the church and prepare them to participate in the prayers. Those greeters usually have a table that has a guest book, pens, greeting cards, prayers books, and packets to give to the visitors that include, among others, some brochures about the church in general, the creed, instructions for first time visitors, the services schedule of the church, a welcome letter from the priest of the church and the congregation.
At a deeper level, the greeting ministry is a ministry for
Christ and encompasses the believers revealing Christ’s love to others, in
order to draw others to God’s salvation and to the Church.
What Are The Objectives of The Greeting Ministry?
As servants in the greeting ministry our objectives are:
1) Make people feel WELCOMED to the church
2) Let the newcomers feel WANTED, not just welcomed.
3) Let them feel they BELONGED to the Church; not simply visitors for a day.
4) Help them to get in touch with the love of God and the spirituality of
- We need to make sure that we welcome people warmly, with genuine love for them.
This reminds me with a story. This story was about a hotel owner that wanted to treat visitors with great love and her goal was to bring them to Christ. One day two woman entered the hotel, one was talking, and the other was silent. The owner of the hotel had two choices: either to neglect her or do her best in showing her Christ.
The next morning, the owner welcomed her and attempted to
make conversation with the visitor. After three days, the lady still had
not responded to her warm welcome and so the owner decided to give her a gift
and include a small brochure about Christ. The owner tried to hug her,
but the lady did not return the hug. After three months had passed, the
visitor wrote a letter to the owner of the hotel and told her that she had
never been hugged before. She continued to talk about how her life had
changed and she now knew the Lord and
allowed Him to work in her life.
- We need to encourage the individual(s) to participate in the Divine Liturgy. Each new comer needs to receive a Divine Liturgy book in order to follow up the service.
- We must encourage them to join in the fellowship hour after the Divine Liturgy has finished. This is a great way to make them feel welcomed, wanted, and a “part” of the Church.
Here, other things to consider when dealing with visitors:
We need to know that first impressions are very important—the person can conclude a lot about our attitudes towards visitors in the first few minutes of entering the church and thus can determine whether he/she will return to this church.
1- We want to have a warm and sincere handshake or other form of greetings for the visitors, so that they know how happy we are to have them in our church.
2- We need to realize that in order to serve others, we must enter the Church before them in order to prepare for their arrival. This means that we need to come earlier than the rest of the congregation. We must come at least 15 minutes prior to the rest in order to prepare pens, cards, a table, pamphlets, guest book, and others for the people that will attend that particular day service.
3- We will need at least one man and one woman seated at the greeting table in order to organize the table and help seat the visitors in the Church’s nave.
4- We need to seat the visitors towards the upper-middle of the Church. The front of the Church can be quite intimidating, since they could feel that they are watched, and the back of the Church can be noisy and full of distractions.
Until we have sermons and announcements in English, we would
want to seat
the English-speaking visitors where the headphones are available so that the
sermon can be translated for them. Also, it may be a good idea
to seat the newcomers close to the aisle of the Church so that they can view
the altar and truly enjoy the Divine Liturgy.
Understanding the Visitors:
It is extremely important that we all should consider the visitor’s different emotions and expectations that come along with entering a new, unique church, like our church. By doing so, we are able to “think” as the newcomer, and thus we are able to provide them with a blessed experience.
When a person first visits our Church there are a few main things they will be looking for or thinking about or have the feeling of:
1- The church is an unfamiliar place and everyone is a stranger to him/her.
2- The visitors are looking for something spiritual—they are most likely seeking peace and joy and are looking for spiritual fulfillment.
3- The rites, hymns, prayers, language, and culture setting are foreigners to them.
4- The newcomer wants to feel welcomed, wanted, and that he/she belongs to the church.
Now, As Servants, How Can We Address The Concerns and Needs of The Visitors?
1- The first impression, usually the first few minutes, is incredibly essential to the visitor. He/she can determine a lot about the church in a short period of time, which is the reasoning behind having a clean, quiet church for anyone to enter in.
2- How can I let the visitor feel our church is a very spiritual church? Sometimes we overlook this aspect of the service, when it is really something that a visitor is looking for. A good example of letting them know about our uniqueness and great spirituality would be to say, “Our service comes from the early centuries of Christianity and was started by Christ Himself. It may not be familiar to you, but it is a very spiritual service.” We should also provide the visitor with a pamphlet telling about the “Spirituality of The Christian Orthodox Church.” It is a good idea to say it this way because many people feel “Orthodox” refers to a Jewish faith or it is not a part of Christianity. We also need to provide them with a Liturgy book and let them know that the screen overhead is for them to use and follow along with. Finally, we offer the option of having someone to sit with them during the Liturgy to help them. All these will make them feel comfortable and wanted.
3- We want to make sure that we introduce ourselves immediately. It is a great idea to give them your name and welcome them on behalf of the Christian Coptic Orthodox Church and on behalf of our congregation and priests. Say something like: ‘My name is ----. On behalf of the congregation and the priest(s) of the church, I welcome you to the St. ----church.’
By doing so, you have extended your own personal welcome, a welcome on behalf of the entire church, and a personal welcome on behalf of the priest(s) as well.
4- After the introduction, it would be a great time to mention that there is an “information card” in the pamphlet for them to fill out, in order for the priest to personally welcome him/her to the church or give them a card to fill out and tell them this is in order to welcome them at the end of the service by the priest. It is important to get them to fill out the card, so the church can contact them later on. This card will have basic information, such as name, phone number, address, e-mail, etc. It is very important that we do not make them feel pressured in giving us their personal information. Here is an example of a card:
Welcome To Saint
George Coptic Orthodox Church Name: ----------------------------------------- Address: ---------------------------------------------- City: -------------------- State: -------------
Zip: ------------ Telephone number: ------------- Email address: ----------- Thank you for joining us today for prayer and
Welcome To Saint George Coptic Orthodox Church
City: -------------------- State: ------------- Zip: ------------
Telephone number: -------------
Email address: -----------
Thank you for joining us today for prayer and fellowship!
5- We should have a ‘guest book’ open on the table, so that people write in their names, and other info without feeling pressured at all.
6- We mentioned that we would like to seat them in the middle section of the church, preferably where the English translation headphones are installed, so that they will not have to move during the time of the sermon. Until we have sermons in English in our churches, it is advisable to install headphones in some pews in both sides of the nave, and connect them to a portable phone used in translations (for more information about that system contact St. George Coptic Orthodox Church of Tampa, Florida or send me an e-mail).
7- Also, it would be great if the Evangelism servants can sit in this area so that they can help the visitors follow along during the service and make them feel comfortable. (Later on down the road, we will have them sit scattered around the church, so that they do not feel this is a row for “visitors” or ‘strangers’ only).
8- Since we stand for a long duration during the Divine Liturgy, we would need to let them know that we are used to stand during the service, but they are more than welcome to sit down and relax when they need to. Remember, they will be looking to us as the “authority” and it is very important that we give them “permission” to be seated.
9- Also, even though we will be providing them with a packet that has brochures about the Coptic Church, Christian Orthodoxy, the church activities, schedule of services and pamphlet discussing the “first-time visit information,” they may not have the time to read it right then. It is ESSENTIAL that we tell them that “the Holy communion is for the Orthodox Christian, but you are more than welcome to participate in singing hymns and receive the Antidoron “ (the holy bread given to the congregation after the service and some call it incorrectly ‘Ologia’). This way, you have invited them to take of the holy bread, without pressuring them [discuss giving the antidoron with your priest before talking about it with the visitors because some priests may object that]. The evangelism group in our church in Tampa, Florida is working in preparing the packet, and once it is available we will post it contents on the evangelism web page. If you can help in preparation, please let me know.
10- We need to come early in order to prepare the table, the brochures, the guest books, the Divine Liturgy books, etc. There should be at least one man and one woman helping with the preparation and sitting at the table every week.
11- We need to remember to mention any coming up services and events to the visitor, such as Vespers, weddings, baptisms, Bible Study, and Church Open House. This is a great way to introduce them to the church and get them involved in the many sacraments, services, and activities, not just the Divine Liturgy.
12- If the visitor arrives early, make sure to introduce him/her to other members seated next to him/her. It is good for visitors to feel standing and praying with people they know and not totally strangers.
13- After the Liturgy, make sure you introduce them to the priest(s), invite them and escort them to the coffee room for some food and drink. Now would be a great time to introduce them to others and mention a word about God’s love. Something as simple as “I am very thankful to God for bringing you to pray with us today” would be wonderful.
14- Remember the rule of ‘Clustering’ when introducing visitors to others. Clustering means people like to make friendship with people who are close to: their age, sex, marital status, education, social level, and habits. Introduce a visitor to some people who are clustering with the visitor in more than one area would help in establishing a bond between them and eventually would help in the visitor’s decision of joining the church.
15- DO NOT FORGET to welcome the children that are visiting as well---This is very important!!! We could invite the children to Sunday school after the Liturgy is over. This will give the children a sense of belonging, while also allowing the parents to get better acquainted with the church and its congregation. If the children love the church, they will ask their parents to come back to the church. Make sure to let the teacher of Sunday School know that this child is a visitor and that he/she needs special care to let him/her feels welcome, wanted, and belonged.
16- It is also very important to be PERSONABLE, NOT PERSONAL. If someone begins to discuss personal manners and situations, you can simply say, “I will pray for you.” Do not become nosy and willing to get involved in their personal affairs. Just make sure that you show love, sincerity, and compassion, because we do need to be able to relate to the visitors and show genuine concern for any of their problems.
17- Parting impression is as important as first impression. Say sincerely something like this: ‘It was a pleasure to have you today in the church. We thank you for joining us in the service today. We hope that you join us regularly.’ If you noticed, I did not say ‘visit us again,’ because this means he is still considered as a visitor, but I said ‘join us regularly,’ which has a welcome to join us as one of us, and not as a visitor.
18- During the coffee hour or the fellowship time, the visitors eventually would voluntarily talk about his purpose of coming to the church, and he/she may mention his/her needs. If you have a service that meets the need, let the visitor know about it. For example, if the visitor says ‘I would like to know more about the Coptic Church,’ then mention any catechumen meetings you have in the church, and if he/she talks about their need to understand the Bible, mention the Bible study groups you have or if mentioned a spiritual need, you may offer the church’s priest help.
19- Make sure that the visitor before leaving the church he/she has the phone number of the priest and that you tell him/her, ‘This is the phone number of our priest, please feel free to call him to discuss with him any matter or to consult with him. He would be happy to serve your needs.’
Remember, the Americans look at the priest as a person who offers service to fulfill their spiritual and personal needs.
20- You may need to give him/her your phone number and tell them, ‘here is my phone number, please feel free to call me if you have a question about our church.’
21- It would be a great idea if you can introduce him/her to the priest or to a person who knows how to evangelize to others.
Follow Up Service:
1- When the visitor leaves the church, write on the same day a nice card to thank him/her. Mail it as soon as you can. The earlier the mail sent, the better result you have. Here, is an example of the card:
St. George Coptic Orthodox Church. “
Dear ----------- On behalf of
the faithful of St. George Christian Coptic Orthodox Church, I would like
to thank you for worshipping with us on Sunday. It was a pleasure to meet you, and I hope that you will join
the service regularly. Should
you have any question about our church, please feel free to call me. My home phone number is --------. Looking
forward to seeing you. Thank you. Yours
in Christ, ---------‘
St. George Coptic Orthodox Church.
“ Dear -----------
On behalf of the faithful of St. George Christian Coptic Orthodox Church, I would like to thank you for worshipping with us on Sunday. It was a pleasure to meet you, and I hope that you will join the service regularly.
Should you have any question about our church, please feel free to call me. My home phone number is --------.
Looking forward to seeing you. Thank you.
Yours in Christ,
2- If you are good in calling people, do it instead of the card. Usually the phone call will give you a chance to chat and establish a bond with the person.
3- If the person shows up next Sunday, then there is a good chance that he/she is thinking seriously about joining the church. Now, it is time to make sure to introduce him/her to the priest.
4- The third visit and after: You need to introduce the person to the English Bible Study or any catechetical class. Talk to the person about the activities in the church, and invite him/her to join any activity that matches his/her interests. If the person desires to be visited by the priest, offer your help.
5- The person should be placed in the mailing list of the church for at least six months.