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10 Conversation Starters for Church Guests
Lori Hatcher Author10 Conversation Starters for Church Guests
It’s that time again – the part of the church service everyone dreads. Whether your church has an official “stand up and greet one other” time or you interact informally, reaching out to a newcomer is often awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes so awkward and uncomfortable that church members avoid it altogether. But ask anyone why they joined a particular church, and you’ll often hear the words, “The people were so friendly,” or “They really made me feel welcome.”
More than just something to get through, opportunities to interact with church guests are crucial. Even a brief exchange can uncover a point of connection, show them you’re glad they came, or help you learn how to begin ministering to them. Thankfully, getting to know a visitor doesn’t have to be hard. A few carefully-worded questions can jump start the conversation and begin the process. Here are 10 of my favorites.
1. "Hi, my name is ______. What's yours?"
This is the simplest way to greet a guest, yet it accomplishes a lot. It helps both parties put a name to a face. Exchanging names is the first step in any relationship, yet many greeters shake and run – they extend a warm handshake, but don’t go one step further and introduce themselves. If your memory’s poor, record their name in your bulletin or phone along with a few descriptive adjectives to jog your memory. When they (hopefully) return the following week, you can call them by name. Trust me, they’ll be impressed.
2. "Hi, my name is ______. I've been attending [church name] for years, but I still haven't met everyone. Is this your first visit with us?"
If you attend a large church, or you’re not sure if someone’s a member or a guest, this question covers all the bases. It’s friendly, transparent, and opens the door for further conversation. If the person is visiting, you can steer the discussion in that direction. If they’ve been attending for awhile or are a member, use the opportunity to get to know one of your own.
3. "Are you new to the area?"
People new to the area are usually extra motivated to find a church. They recognize that churches are great sources of information, friendship, and support. When you discover a transplant, you have an open door to offer assistance. If you feel comfortable, give them your phone number in case they need help finding a doctor, hairstylist, or babysitter. Take the welcome one step further and invite them out to eat after the service or home if you’ve got something in the crock pot. Even if they don’t accept, they’ll feel welcomed, and a little less lonely.
4. "How did you find our church?"
This question accomplishes two things. First, it lets you know which of your church’s outreach efforts are actually working. If the guest says, “I found your church on Facebook,” this confirms the value of your church’s social media presence. If they say, “I Googled Baptist churches, and yours came up,” it shows that reviews, posts, and your church website are raising your church’s profile.
Second, asking how they found your church can clue you in to other points of connection. If they say, “A friend at work mentioned it,” follow that conversation trail. If they mention they attended a Grief Share class or a special event, pursue that avenue. Your goal is not to interrogate them or delve too deeply into their personal lives, but discovering a few key bits of information can help you get to know them and better minister to them.
5. "What brought you to our church today?"
This question can uncover a gold mine of helpful conversation material. Typical responses include, “I’m interested in your children’s ministry,” “I heard you had a great Singles group,” or “I’ve been away from church for awhile and decided it’s time to get back into it.”
Asking this question can help you point the newcomer toward the class, ministry, or program that will best meet their needs. If they’re honest, you’ll also catch a glimpse of what God’s doing in their life.
6. "What kind of work do you do?"
This question is usually quite safe and a great springboard for conversation. Since people usually enjoy talking about themselves, non-intrusive questions like this are easy ways to open the conversation channels. Their answer could also give you the chance to mention other church members they might know who work in the same field. If they mention a profession you know little about or are interested in, ask for more details. Most guests enjoy talking about their work with someone who genuinely wants to hear more.
7. "Do you know anyone who attends this church?"
Church is all about connections – connecting people to God and to each other. The primary reason people visit a church is because someone invited them. Usually if someone invited your guest, they also made arrangements to meet them at the front door, show them around, and introduce them, but it doesn’t always work this way.
My husband has invited some of his coworkers to our church and made arrangements to meet them, only to have them cancel at the last minute. One man unexpectedly showed up three weeks after my husband invited him. Thankfully, a well-trained greeter asked this question, discovered the connection, and told my husband. We took over from there. We invited him to sit with us, introduced him to others, and showed him around after the service.
8. "Do you have any questions about the church?"
This is a no-brainer question, one that is best posed after the service. By now your guest has gotten a feel for the style and flow of the worship hour, read about upcoming events in the bulletin, and heard the pastor preach. While they understand more about the church than when they walked in, there’s still a lot to learn. Asking this question gives you a chance to provide necessary information to help them take the next step.
9. "Do you live nearby?"
Like “What kind of work to you do?” this conversation starter is simple and non-threatening. It can help you determine whether your guest is looking for a neighborhood church or if they’re willing to travel some distance to attend.
Because living in close proximity to the church you attend makes it easier to participate in its body life, guests from the neighborhood often become some of the most dedicated and active members. Additionally, when a person or family catches a vision to reach their neighborhood, the friends they invite to church are more likely to come if the church is nearby.
10. "Have you met _____?"
Once you’ve made a connection with your guest, you can open the conversation circle wider by inviting someone else in. The simplest way to do this is to introduce them to another member. If you’ve discovered that your guest has something in common with someone nearby, mention this as you introduce them. If not, simply say, “Michael, let me introduce you to Bill. He’s been attending our church for about a year.” When you pass the conversational baton, you’ve now introduced your guest to another person who can reach out to them.
Not every guest wants a 10-minute conversation, but some do. Take your cues from them. Read their body language. Are they inching away or fully engaged? Looking relaxed or uncomfortable? If you’re sincere and interested, one or more of these conversation openers can help your visitors feel welcome, cared for, and valued.
Lori Hatcher is a blogger, women’s ministry speaker, and author of the Christian Small Publisher’s 2016 Book of the Year, Hungry for God … Starving for Time, Five-Minute Devotions for Busy Women. A Toastmasters International contest-winning speaker, Lori’s goal is to help busy women connect with God in the craziness of everyday life. She especially loves small children, soft animals, and chocolate. You’ll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God. . . Starving for Time. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter (@lorihatcher2) or Pinterest (Hungry for God).
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