Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Greeting As Ministry

I "attended" an online workshop called "Ten Bright Ideas for Getting Your Church Ready for Fall," sponsored by three UUA districts: Central Midwest, Prairie Star and Heartland. Great workshop! The idea I loved the most was the first one: Greeting As Ministry:

Have greeters who see their work as a ministry, not a chore. Ideally, a greeter knows many members by name, is very warm and personable and greets everyone, not just adults. The most crucial time to be friendly is right after the service ends, so have greeters and others continue to greet after the service. Have a Welcoming Team that includes some phantom greeters: members who volunteer to assist with greeting both before and after the service, but are not the "official" greeters.

Great tips, no? For some of us, greeting is fulfilling and fun. I'm an extravert (surprise) and get quite a charge from being that friendly, smiling person who can greet members by name and welcome visitors. The more difficult piece is engaging first-time visitors after the service. I have an easier time when I ask how they felt/what they thought of the worship service and perhaps find out their church background and what they're looking for in a faith community.

I'm a huge fan of the phantom greeter idea, because having a specific role to play can make us more effective: designated phantom greeters will notice new people before and during the service so that they're ready to seek them out afterwards. Maybe a good idea for large congregations would be to have a phantom greeter in each section of the sanctuary? Ideally, this would be in addition to the official section greeter. My hUUge congregation doesn't have those, but some congregations do.

Do any UU congregations give welcome bags with gifts to visitors? Some relatives of ours recently brought home a welcome bag from their visit to a large Episcopal congregation. The bag contained a blessing, several informational flyers and a jar of preserves bought at our farmer's market. Wow! This church has an enormous building with a Cathedral-like sanctuary that was about half-full, my relatives said. I went to a Unity church once that had a tradition of giving first-time visitors flowers. That was wonderful, except that after the service no one spoke to me or my flower!

Autumnal greetings,