Greeting new visitors to your parish is essential. According to Pew Research Center, 79% of people said that feeling welcomed played an important role in choosing a new parish. This provides a critical opportunity that may have a lasting impact on the lives of visitors and the parish. But how you welcome visitors is important.
To enhance welcoming efforts, ParishSOFT has assembled a list of four creative ways to welcome visitors to your parish.
1. Make a positive first impression with technology
There is a good chance you have already welcomed newcomers virtually without even knowing it. Your website, social media accounts, and other digital forms of communication, such as emails and electronic newsletters, are often the first way visitors hear about your parish. A search engine like Google or a social media post on Facebook, for example, is likely to be one of the first places that people encounter you.
A best practice for managing your digital presence is to keep your parish’s website and social media accounts uncluttered and updated at least on a weekly basis. Regular maintenance will ensure guests always have accurate information. As a side-note, consider making your ParishSOFT Giving link prominent so visitors can easily give online if they feel inspired to do so
2. Create a welcoming experience that makes a lasting impression
Many of us have likely experience awkward, lackluster parish gatherings after Mass that quickly spurred us out the door. Whether the hospitality ministers or other volunteers were inattentive, or not very knowledgeable, or the hospitality area consisted of a folding table and a few scattered pieces of paper, people notice. Offering warm hospitality in a well-kept and inviting space makes a difference!
The gift of the Mass draws us together in a profound way. It also provides us with many opportunities to deepen our experience of being a community of God. Before and after Mass, try to identify visitors, intentionally draw them out, include them in conversation and answer any questions they might have. More than anything else you can do, acknowledging and honoring your visitors presence is the first step in helping them feel welcome and invited to deeper participation in your parish community.
Following the Mass, consider offering fresh donuts and coffee, or other refreshments that encourage visitors to stay and mingle. Ask parishioners to donate seasonal decorations to help make the hospitality area more inviting and, of course, always make sure there is a knowledgeable and friendly face there to help new guests. Your gathering space or hospitality area may be the perfect place to have easily accessible welcome packets and giving kiosks as well.
3. Create a visitor packet filled with helpful information
Many parishes have a packet for visitors, but if you really want to get their attention, you need to fill it with helpful information. Here are just a few bits of information you can include:
- The parish’s mission and the arch/diocese’s mission
- Contact information (including office hours)
- Service days and times (including Sunday School)
- Upcoming events
- How to volunteer
- Group meetings (and how to sign up)
- Current campaigns and their intended impact on parish and community life
Thirty-four percent of people looking for a new place of worship are doing so because they moved. Do not hesitate to think outside the box and incorporate a list of your parishioners’ favorite restaurants, a map of local parks, and includes dates on the parish’s calendar for community events like the local farmer’s market. The welcome packet should be fun to leaf through, so be sure to add images, keep it heartfelt, and make it colorful.
4. Invite newcomers to sign up for a guided tour
Not only is this an excellent way for newcomers to learn about your parish, but it also creates a nice icebreaker by allowing you to spend one-on-one time with new guests. Plan the tour with talking points and fun facts so the conversation never grows stale. Create a customized form on your giving kiosk for people to sign up before or after mass.
Let us know how it goes by commenting below. We look forward to hearing from you!