By Jonathan Howe
In podcast episode 300, we briefly touched on guest welcome packets. Following the interest in that episode and after last week’s post on guests’ gifts, it seemed only prudent to expand on the topic.
Guest welcome packets differ from a guest letter. And while they can be mailed, it’s sometimes more effective to hand these out at an information desk while the guest is still on campus. Some churches opt to have packets available at kids check-in or in the student ministry area as well. This makes it easy to include age-appropriate information in the packet because the parents are dropping off a child in that age range.
So whether you mail your guest packet or give it out on Sunday, here are six items to be sure to include:
- General information about the church and next steps. The information should be a brief overview. There’s no need to have a 30-page history of the church. Provide an overview of the church’s vision, its group strategy, and how to take the next step toward membership. This next step should also include information about making a personal decision for Christ.
- Information about specific ministries that might be of interest. Trained guest experience volunteers can make the difference in a guest connecting to the church or not. Volunteers need to be perceptive to the needs and wants of the guest and provide the specific information that’s relevant to them. As previously stated, this can easily be pre-loaded if the packets are given out in age-specific areas, but if you hand them out at a welcome center, insert this information according to need as you give them to the guest.
- A welcome gift. I covered four common guest gifts last week and several others were mentioned in the comments—including my personal favorite of chips and salsa. Whatever your gift may be, if you can provide it in the packet, that’s great. If you deliver it later to the home, that also can work in certain contexts.
- Stories from members. Member stories allow you to connect to guests on a personal level. When compiling member stories for the welcome packet, just use first names of those who provide their story and highlight three main points in each story: where the member was in their life before coming to your church, how they connected to the church, and how the connection changed them.
- Weekly schedule. Don’t assume the guest will look up times and events online or in the bulletin. Provide a schedule of major weekly events for them to hang on to or to stick on the fridge. Even if you think the times are easy to remember, it will take guests some time to remember dates and times when they are new to your church.
- Important upcoming dates. This can be compiled for each major season of the church calendar. Right now, you should include late summer events, back to school events, and major fall events. Later in the year, add the holiday schedule to the list. Then in the spring, add your Easter and major summer events.
What else does your church include in its guest welcome packet? Do you even have a guest welcome packet?
How about a handy facilities map? Churches are complex these days.
We also include a map of the building with areas of interest clearly marked. We also include a salvation tract.
Good idea about the map.
Seeing the comment about age appropriate bags got me to thinking, giving away the “Jesus Film-Though the Eyes of a Child” would be a great way to share Jesus when the family is back home. 50 DVD’s can be purchased at: http://jesusfilmshop.com/ for around $75. The regular version can be purchased in bulk for a dollar each.
Personally I’m considering giving them away at Halloween to those who come to my door.
Keep it concise. Don’t give out a packet with 100 pieces in it. It can become overwhelming and the guest won’t look through it all.
Keep it simple. Do a broad stroke explaining the church & ministries in the welcome packet. Give contact information (email, phone number) for the ministry leader so the visitor can seek out more information if they so desire.
Keep it current. Make sure everything is up to date in the packet. Nothing worse than someone who wants to visit a page on the church website and when they enter an address given in the welcome packet, they’re taken to a “error 404: page not found” because the page has been moved or deleted. Same for email addresses, phone numbers, service times, and yes, pictures.
Our welcome packet contains a bag of microwave popcorn with church logo label that says, “Thanks for popping in.”
You wrote: “A welcome gift . . . Whatever your gift may be, if you can provide it in the packet, that’s great. If you deliver it later to the home, that also can work in certain contexts.” What are those certain contexts? We have only ever taken them to homes, however we are finding fewer volunteers to take the gifts, and fewer guests who want someone to drop off a gift. Do you find that gifts given immediately are better or more gratefully received than gifts taken to the home a day or two later?
It depends on the context. Some people like people dropping by later. Some find that intrusive.
If you’re in a rural or close-knit community, home visits are still part of the culture of that area. For a bustling metropolis or suburban city, I’d give them away at the welcome center. Follow up with phone call or email instead of a home visit. Especially for young families.
The best gift of all is salvation through Jesus Christ. What a priceless gift.
Thanks, Robert. It’s in the list.
Great article. Thanks! 🙂 We also had welcome letter from the pastor, some candy, logo pen, logo chip clip, little book of Bible Promises (.99 book)… for a while we gave a logo mug but then changed to giving that out at the getting started class (when people came to get more info about the church).
Very good points to be followed coming weeks.
God bless You,
I wrote out my testimony in booklet form and self-published it and included it in our guest package.
Thanks for the article, and all the helpful comments! We currently give a logo coffee mug with a logo pen, Pastor’s business card, a pocket cross, a pocket prayer, and a small brochure with our vision/mission statements, contact info for staff (which we’ll need to update in August – thanks for the heads up on that), and a blurb about our ministries. I like the idea of saving the mugs for the New Member class participants.