In a church I visited recently, I was approached by a greeter who began to hit me with a barrage of questions. Right after I heard, “you look like you may be new,” came the onslaught:
“Are you new to town?”
“Is this your first time to visit?”
“How did you find us?”
“Are you looking for a church to attend?”
“Where do you live?”
“Have you visited other churches?”
“Oh, what is your name?”
I am not sure all the questions were asked just like that or if that is the order they came at me, but it is close enough to make the point: what might have been a greeting turned into a grilling.
Sadly, some of the questions I viewed as qualifying questions, i.e., an attempt to find out if I qualified for their best attention or not. If some of the questions put to me were answered “wrong” (e.g., if I answered, “I am from out of town” and was not really a prospective regular attender or member), the impression left with me was that I might not get A-level attention but more nearly C-level attention or worse, no attention at all.
I would like to assume that this was unintentional --- that greeters do not have a plan to qualify or disqualify guests arriving at their door step. Nonetheless, the perception of the guest is greater than the reality. If guests conclude that the questioning is screening them in or out for services provided by the church, the damage is already done.
And so it is best to simply not go there!
How much better it is to train your greeters to use brief affirming statements:
We are really glad you are here today!
Your visit means a lot to us!
I will be glad to assist you in every way possible!
You are really going to enjoy being here at _________ Church today!
Try it out! Put those words in the greeter training for guest dialogue! Don’t leave greeters to their nervous, don’t know what to say, instincts. Put some words in their mouths. They will feel better about what they do and so will your guests.
Save the grilling for hamburgers and hotdogs. Greet your guests!