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The power of hello

The power of hello

When we think of church growth strategies we tend to imagine marketing plans and hired consultants. But there are a number of very simple things any congregation can do that will make a huge difference. And they don’t require any clergy involvement or probably permission.

In a series on “Internal church marketing” the “CMS” blog gives a list of simple things that welcome and invite newcomers into the congregation’s community:

“Hopefully your church staff does a lot to make that experience worthwhile. But there’s also a lot the person in the pew can do to supplement what’s already being done. And in some cases, there are things the lay person needs to do that a staff just can’t.

Being Friendly

This should go without saying, but it still needs to be said: Be friendly. Perhaps the single greatest thing the average person in the pew can do to bring people back to their church is simply being friendly to the people in the pews around them. Say hello. Introduce yourself. Actually remember their name. If you see somebody new at church, welcome them. If you see someone looking lost, help them out. If you see somebody who looks a little uncomfortable, try to put them at ease. You don’t have to be over the top (and that can scare people away), but be kind. This doesn’t exactly qualify as marketing, but in a way it is. It’s part of your church’s image. And hopefully it goes deeper than that. Friendship is one of the main things that keeps people in church.”

More here. Some of the other points talk about name tags, coffee hour, doing introductions, etc.

There’s a congregation here in Arizona that has been struggling for years but about a year ago the Sr. Warden of the congregation decided that it was time this church did something about growth. Because the wardens decided to act and implemented many of these suggestions, the church is in the midst of a major turnaround. When the laity decide that things have to change, they change.

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Mary Ann Hill

I've worked with several congregations on this, and the one thing they've all had in common was that people were afraid to be welcoming in case the person they were talking to was a long-time member they didn't know or someone who usually attended the other service. I always point out that you don't have to say "are you new here?" You can say "Have we met?" or "we've met before, right?"

Years ago, my own experience as a young adult in the church was that no one spoke to me between the time I showed up on the second Sunday of Advent until the reception after the Easter Vigil, at which point a lady stepped on my foot and was too polite not to speak to me. Because my experience was so miserable, I made it a mission to welcome anyone I thought was new. My tatic was to say "Hi, I'm Mary Ann, I'm new here." (thus not risking offending an old-timer). That worked until I'd been there about five years, and someone pointed out that I couldn't legitimately call myself "new" anymore.

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Donna McNiel

Church secretaries, receptionists, volunteer phone answer-ers, etc. can do a lot in this regard to encourage or DIScourage greater connection. It's the first impression many people get when they call for information, and a brusque or even rude secretary is incredibly off-putting. (And clergy often don't know how their staff sound to others, so it's worth a conversation at staff meeting from time to time. Clergy often don't know how they sound to others, either, so it's a good reminder for everyone!)

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Peter Pearson

This simple habit is HUGE and probably the hardest thing to invite people to risk.

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