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Cardboard Greeter

My Dad used to be a sales rep for Nabisco and I remember times that he would assemble cardboard display stands and props for purposes of promoting cookie sales in grocery stores. The cardboard displays were temporary store fixtures intended for advertising. They were artsy and attractive and silently presented a good image for cookies and crackers to the potential customers that passed by, moving down the grocery store aisle.

Risking overstatement, I have seen official church greeters that were strangely similar to those cardboard displays presenting the church's "cookies" (bulletins, handouts, etc.) as church guests meandered into the worship center of the church.

An example? How about this? I have encountered greeters (ushers or welcome team) standing idly alongside the entrance to the worship center as I approached for the very first time as a guest. Their hands were comfortably full of church programs. I approached the door with expectations of a pleasant greeting and a program being handed enthusiastically to me. What I got?? NOTHING! Not a greeting and not even a program. (Hard to believe? It happens.) At this point, I, the guest, take over and say, "Good morning. Could I have one of those?"

The effect of such greeters on me is always something like, "Really?" "That's it?" It is, sadly, in moments such as these, that a grand opportunity for a warm and favorable First Impressions turns suddenly cold and awkward.

And if that is what you want, I suspect you could save a lot of volunteer time and a lot of volunteer recruiting to simply have an artistic somebody paint up a life size Cardboard Greeter with a little cartoon balloon box out to the side that has your Cardboard Greeter saying "Glad you are here!" You could even have your Cardboard Greeter hold a cardboard platter full of church programs to be picked up by motivated guests as they come into the worship center.

Of course, I am kidding. Here’s the point: if you’re not careful, the greeter ministry at church can become cardboard stiff.

But I trust you will agree that alive is better than the alternative when it comes to greeters. Personable is better than its opposite. And engaging is better than a program dispensing fixture.

I don't honestly believe the greeters that stand there at the worship door and do nothing intend to be ineffective. Sometimes they are just not paying attention (distracted); sometimes they are untrained and don't know what to say; sometimes they don’t realize that what they are doing is important.

You can help!

Here are five things you can do to assist with the cardboard greeter issue. 1) Make sure you routinely TRAIN your greeters in what to do and say. If you don't the default button is "as little as possible" and that is typically not enough. 2) Make sure you ENCOURAGE your greeters by commending them for a job well done, by meeting with them regularly, pointing up the positive feedback from incoming guests about all effective greeting behavior, and driving home the value of making a positive first impression on all guests. 3) Make sure you OBSERVE the greeters in action so that you can provide practical assistance with issues that surface and hold the greeters gently accountable to a high standard of hospitality, timeliness, courtesy, and assistance. 4) Make sure you ENLIST the right greeters in the first place. Not just any warm body will do. You want to find someone that is friendly, that carefully chooses his words, that listens well, that mixes well with all sorts of people, and that is conscientious to fulfill his volunteer duties. 5) Make sure you APPOINT a greeter coordinator that will provide all the above items with diligence and joy, works well with volunteers, stays motivated with a keen sense of the importance of the task, and functions well independently as well as cooperatively with staff.


Guests are paying attention and will consider the hopeful greeting at the door important. Make the moment at the door count with uplifting, courteous, and kind people... not cardboard. It works so much better that way!

Have you got stories? I would be eager to hear them. Share your comments.

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