Beyond Self-Centered Church Greetings

Our church has been rethinking our hospitality ministry.  One of the things we asked our people was, what questions do you typically ask new guests to our church?  It was amazing, upon reflection many of the questions asked, were more centered on us (the church).  Eg. What did you think about our service?  How did you find out about our church?  These setup an air of, I want to ask you questions to find out more about us.  The second question in particular was common to ask where people heard about us from.  It can come across as a form of market research to see what are effective ways we target new people.  I could just see a drop down box to select: Website, Direct Mail, etc.  Now, I know this isn't the heart of our people when they ask.  Typically, it could be they want to know if a friend invited them or if they read about us on the internet as a point of conversation.  Are there better questions to ask?  Here is a new question that may do a better job:

What brought you to church today?

The point of the question is to listen to the guest, learn about them and possibly discern ministry opportunity.  If we are to minister to and love guests, it is good to know what brought them.  Did they return to church after many years?  Did they find out a family member passed away?  Are they looking for a new church because they came to a place of conviction about their last church?  Did they just move to the area?  Did they just become a Christian?  It seems like this is a more effective way to really listen to our guests and begin a conversation where we can love and pray for them based on where they are at.

  • archshrk

    March 19, 2007, 11:06 am

    One of the benefits of asking “how did you find out about our church?” is that it is a safe question. First time visitors may not want to open up so quickly and this question allows them to answer without being rude but also opens the door for more conversation.

    The downside to “What brought you to church today?” is that it may seem to challenge their right to be there – “what’s your business here?” kind of thing.

    I agree we need to listen more and try to learn more about them, but they also need to learn about us.

    I stopped asking how they found out about our church since over 90% say “the internet”. I also stopped asking if this was their first time since too often it wasn’t. It was more often 3-6 months, which is unusual since our church isn’t so big that someone could visit for 3-6 months and not be noticed (or is it?)

    I usually lead off with “How long have you been comming?” If it’s their first time, they say so. If they’ve been coming for a while then I learn that too.

  • Wendy

    March 20, 2007, 3:02 am

    If someone asked me “What brought you to church today?” My replied would be “The car.”

    Seriously though, I’ve never really thought about the questions we ask people when they come to church. I guess there are up and down sides to most of these questions we ask.

  • D. Goodmanson

    March 20, 2007, 9:27 am

    Luke – I think it’s all in the tone. First, I don’t lead with this question, I get to know them a bit first. And the emphasis isn’t on what brought YOU to church?

    Wendy – See if I asked you, I’d learn a lot about you if you answered, “the car”. It worked!

  • Wendy

    March 20, 2007, 5:44 pm

    Drew – And you would learn a lot more about me when you fine out that I don’t have my driver’s license. So the next question you would need to ask is “Who did I come to church with?” Then I am assuming that this question would be followed by “And how did you come to know (‘insert person’s name here’)?”

    So as you can see “The car” is the perfect answer to your original question. 😀

  • iCalvinist

    March 22, 2007, 4:34 pm

    I like asking “Have you been coming to the church for long?” because I’m fairly new I usually can answer “I haven’t been coming that long either.” I used it on a middle aged newcomer to the evening service 2 weeks ago. He was about to leave (I had to run/jog across 2 pews to catch him), but when he heard I was fairly new as well and that I could relate to how intimidating it is to be new, he stayed and talked for about 15 minutes. I think it could still be used after I’ve been here awhile by just honestly admitting I’m not the best at getting to meet everyone in the 5-10 minutes it takes people to leave church.

    I also use “So how’d you hear about the church?” but I think Drew’s suggestion is better (what brought you to out today?) because I’m not really trying to find out if he liked the website. Our website rocks…duh! Moot point. I think a combo of these would work well.

  • brad

    March 23, 2007, 6:57 am


    i resonate with your church’s sensitivity to this issue. i think you’re suggestion is spot on. it really shows a keen ability to think critically and deeper, away from where we default most of the time.

    we really need to evaluate what we do and why we do things in our churches. as you have found, most of the time, it is centered on us. ‘younger evangelicals’ can pick up in a heartbeat. and they can’t stand it…

    though it may be true that people may not open up, i think even is some people do, it does open up ministry opportunities.

    way to go…

  • RC of strangeculture

    March 26, 2007, 2:01 pm

    It’s funny to me in what you determined as your final question. I work in a unique retail enviornment and one of my favorite questions is: “What brings you into (store name) today?”

    And from there I listen and establish a connection.

    Good thoughts on self-centered questions churches ask…it’s true.

    How can we connect and serve the needs of people if we never ask a question that gives us a chance to listen to people and hear their needs.