How much attention do you give the welcome segment in your church service?
If you are like most churches, the answer is little to none. I mean it’s only a few minutes, anyway. How much time should we spend planning something so short and insignificant? And isn’t a “welcome” just a transitional element so the band or choir can get ready?
You might be shocked to see how much time at Watermarke Church we spend evaluating the welcome. It is only a 3-minute segment of our 60-minute service, but like every facet of our service, we desire it to be excellent, intentional, and strategic. We discuss every phrase we use. We evaluate the energy we bring. We consider how our words might be heard or interpreted by guests and non-Christians. In some ways, communicating a 3-minute welcome at Watermarke is as stressful as the 35-minute message!
Here’s a quick “welcome” in action: WATCH HERE. Come back after you watch so I can explain what you just saw!
The welcome is a difficult element in the service. Part of the problem is the allotted time. We typically allow 3 minutes. We are sticklers about time, so when a 3-minute segment runs 6 minutes, it impacts ALL the programming in the church (the babies know exactly when the service was supposed to end!). The other issue is the amount of information we hope to communicate. There’s information for guests, announcements, and more.
So how can you make your welcome segment excellent, intentional, strategic, and short? Here are a few tips from our process:
1. Manage the time.
Staying within the time limit is important. If we allow the welcome segment to run long, it pushes the entire service long. If that doesn’t bother you, just spend a week in the baby room. They know exactly when the hour is up, and their meltdowns are timed perfectly! The overall church experience is only as good as the interdependent segments of your service. If you run long in the service, it hurts other ministries.
2. Be intentional welcoming guests.
Remember, every week there are guests in your audience, and they probably do not know much about your church or what will happen in your service. At Watermarke, every week I specifically welcome our guests, repeat our mission, and tell them what to expect.
3. Preemptively answer their questions.
Most guest (and every man) wants to know: How long will this last? Don’t make them wonder the entire service – tell them up front. People want to know who is leading singing. They want to know what the message will be about. They want to know who YOU are. We try to anticipate their questions and provide answers up front so they can relax and enjoy the remainder of their time at Watermarke. I’m AMAZED by the number of churches who don’t do this! Don’t be one of them! Tell people what to expect.
4. Limit announcements.
The welcome segment is not an announcement segment. You have many other mediums for announcements (bulletin, pre-service videos and quips, information tables, etc.). We intentionally limit the number of announcements, only highlighting what we feel is absolutely necessary. In most cases, our only “announcement” is dedicated to a next step for the people in the auditorium.
In the sample above, I announced short-term group registration and highlighted our new satellite parking lot. This gave me a little moment to celebrate, cast vision, and connect people in our church.
5. Evaluate your words… all of them.
We are hypercritical at Watermarke, picking apart everything we do. That certainly causes some “unfiltered debate,” but it makes us better. The welcome is not immune to our evaluation. We want to ensure the exact words we say and phrases we use communicate exactly what we intend. Remember, people (especially guests) are assessing your church at the beginning of your service. Make sure the phrases and content of your welcome communicate who you are and what you hope for them.
6. Define your target.
Make sure the welcome is targeted to the group of people who need to be “welcomed.” Hint: Your target is the people sitting in front of you. If you are expecting guests (please tell me you are expecting guests!), then talk directly to them. If the high school staff gives you an announcement about a high school retreat, don’t use the welcome time if there are no high school students in the room. Be intentional. Be strategic. Target your welcome and the words you use. Make every word count.
7. Dress appropriately.
This might seem silly, but it’s important. If your church is informal, you should not wear a suit in the welcome. If your church is mostly white-collar families (like Watermarke), dress like them. Your attire communicates something to your audience.
In my example, I wore a tie with an untucked shirt. That’s me. I was comfortable, except for the skinny’ish jeans I was wearing. Don’t try that if you can’t pull it off. I lost 25 lbs. before I tried! But jeans matter. Style matters. We are a pretty hip church, and I represent who we are. Be you, but be the best dressed version of you for your audience.
8. Be likable.
I’m not sure how to coach this. I’m not even sure if I always accomplish this. But I know it’s really important. I try to smile a lot. I try to be energetic. I try to connect through humor and relevant information. But in the end, be a person they like.
9. Let your best communicators communicate.
I saved this for last, because it’s the one most churches seem to ignore. If you are the leader, but you’re not the best communicator, then you should step aside during the welcome. The primary purpose of the welcome is navigation, not vision-casting or preaching. Sure, vision is always centric (hopefully you saw that in my example), but navigation and tone is the primary purpose of the welcome. So put your best communicators on the platform during this segment.
How about that? Nine things to consider for a 3-minute segment of your service. I told you we were hypercritical! Like you, I believe anything that matters should be evaluated and improved, and the welcome segment certainly fits this description.
If you communicate in the welcome segment or have seen it done really well (or poorly), go ahead and contribute to the conversation. What did I miss? I’d love to know so I can improve what we do at Watermarke! Thanks in advance for sharing your ideas.