Thought Question: An Open Letter to American Churches

Mentanna Campbell recently returned to the United States after serving as a missionary in France for years. She started looking for a church. And then wrote a letter posted at RELEVANT Magazine offering some heartfelt, sage advice for how a church should treat visitors. Here are some samplings, but you’ll have to click on the link to get all her advice —

Please don’t offer me cheesy gifts for coming to visit your church. I don’t need Starbucks gift cards or fancy pens. … I want your authenticity and commitment to Christ to be that which draws me back, not the promise of another book or CD. … Offer me information on your church to take home and read. …

Please talk to me. … Come up to us and shake our hands. Introduce yourselves. …

Please include on your website what to expect if I come to your church. I need to know how to dress. I need to know if my kids go to the service with me or not. I would like to know most of that before I come so I can be prepared to entertain my kindergartner during your 45-minute sermon.

… The truth is that I’m not going to fill out anything until I am sure that your church might be a real option for me.

Wow. It never occurred to me to include on our website whether the kids would be in children’s church and how long their parents need to entertain them in church. And while I think it’s important that the congregation give permission to dress casually, it never occurred to me to put that on the website.

Readers, how else can we do a better job of making visitors feel comfortable and welcome?

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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9 Responses to Thought Question: An Open Letter to American Churches

  1. JamesBrett says:

    i say visitors shouldn't be made to wear rose stickers. neither should they be asked to stand up and be seen. nor should they be asked to remain sitting while regular members stand up, looking for sitters to greet.

    but, if i'm a visitor, i'd love for people to come up and speak with me. ask me if i'd like to know anything about particular ministries of your congregation; and introduce me to someone else if you don't know the answers to some of my questions. invite me to a bible study group or to your class the next time i come.

    for the record, however, when i return to the states from serving as a missionary in tanzania, i WOULD like to be given a gift card to starbucks. spoiled french missionary — doesn't want a free coffee.

  2. Price says:

    The best thing that you can do is effectively encourage, edify and exhort through the Word of God… The Holy Spirit can use that to do what He wants and usually it turns out pretty well, huh ?

    It's nice to have a place where Visitors can pick up information if they wish and if a person doesn't like what you then they should leave the starbucks card behind. 🙂

    One might want to check around at the "competition" and see what's on their web sites.. Although those dang denominationists are going to hell some of them put together a pretty good web site with fantastic info available at a click.

  3. Alabama John says:

    Don't ask them to move if they get your seat.

    Introduce yourself and tell them welcome.

    Don't give them the third degree.

    Leave some seats near the back open without marking them for visitors. Assign visitor guides to help them find classes and guide them to the visitor seats without them knowing what you are doing.

    Have a table in plain sight with info on your church.

    Do not hand out church pamphlets or tracts. last weeks bulletin is OK if everyone gets one coming through the door.

  4. Do unto them as they would like

    Hence, approach a visitor and say, "Welcome, I am happy to see you, is there anything you would like for me to do for you?"

  5. Anonymous says:

    AMEN to James, Price, and Alabama John. Don't do anything to draw attention to them as a visitor (returning friends who've moved away are an exception). You may be accustomed to recognizing the graduate's achievement or a man's new job. That's family business – but for one who is not part of the family yet, give them the blessing of being able to observe without being conspicuous.

    Do, however, show yourself friendly. Certainly if you have a visitor information station that is manned (Or womaned), be alert to those who approach it to be able to offer help and assistance of whatever kind is needed.

    If I were looking for a new church, I would likely want to spend some quiet time with the minister and/or some of the other leaders of the congregation. I would not, however, want that to be in the aisle of the auditorium with others listening in or watching.

    In small churches, visitors stand out as much as the proverbial sore thumb anyway. We do not need to ignore them; neither do we need to greet them with a tsunami of attention.

  6. Wendy says:

    Ignoring visitors is the worst thing you can do. I visited a church some years ago when I was looking to change churches. There were perhaps 60 people attending the day I was there. In such a small group I was assuming I "stood out" as a visitor. But no-one spoke to me.

  7. HistoryGuy says:

    Wow… I need to have the web guy add "come as you are as long as you have clothes on" and "children are welcome to go nursery, class, or stay with you" to the church website. I know there are some CoC haters on here, but you all would be happy to know we do a good job reaching out and welcoming those who visit – Good points, Jay

  8. Jay Guin says:


    Thanks for the reminder. It's amazing how common that problem is.

    Many congregations are so inwardly focused that a visitor can show up and be entirely ignored. I don't understand what drives that behavior, but it's an astonishingly common complaint.

  9. Royce Ogle says:

    Visit White's Ferry Road in West Monroe, we'll make you feel like you belong there.

    I think the bottom line is do we love those who come, those who visit? And, do we love those who look like they slept in the gutter last night? People instinctively know when you love them. And, most people deeply want and need to be loved.


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