What Makes Visitors Feel Welcome?
Ministry and Advancement Committee
The yearly meeting’s Ministry and Advancement Committee met at Clear Creek House in McNabb on October 14-16, 2011. The guest workshop leader, Brent Bill, led an exercise that gave new insights about how first time visitors might feel when they come to worship. Committee members were asked to share what makes them feel welcome when they go to an unfamiliar place. The list included the following:
Finding the place easily: Address listed in Quakerfinder.org., phone book (under Quakers), motel list of religious services, etc.; map on web site; accurate aerial web map, sign or house number readable from across the street.
Going with a member/attender: A potential visitor might be more likely to go if someone the visitor knows would offer a ride or comes with him/her to show the way and ease introductions. It also helps to be able to sit with someone.
Seeing where to enter: Knowing the location of an accessible entrance, if needed, and how to get to the meeting room.
Someone who is there to greet visitors: Especially if visitors arrive early or late, they may need instructions that are reassuring, not critical, and a feeling that the greeter is friendly and willing to answer questions, not simply to say “hello.” It is confusing to arrive early and find no one around.
Knowing what to do with children: Is there child care? Religious instruction? If so, where is it? Is the room cheerful and attractive to children? Is it O.K. if the children want to stay with the adult visitor? Are there options if the children become restless or noisy? If children are expected to stay, are there child-size chairs at worship or a “busy bag” with activities like a finger labyrinth or crayons?
Knowing where the restrooms are located: A clear map in an obvious location, signs, or someone to ask.
Seeing the phrase, “You are welcome here.”
A leaflet or personal explanation about what to expect: If there is no program or bulletin, how does a visitor know what to do? Is there something happening afterwards?
Meeting space that is light, warm, and pleasant.
Seating that is comfortable, easily accessible, and in the back (or near the door): Visitors may prefer to slip in and out without notice until they decide whether they like what they see and hear. A seat in front, one that requires crossing the room, climbing over others, or “squeezing in” may be uncomforable.
Seeing people like like them: In an unfamiliar setting, it is more comfortable to find others with whom one can identify, whether you are a young family, a single young adult, a single older adult or senior, a couple without children, or someone of a minority race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Friendly conversations afterwards and introductions to others: Being approached by and introduced to people who seem genuinely interested in getting acquainted and who really listen to what the visitor might have to say.
An invitation to lunch, particularly to an on-site potluck or someone’s home: This relieves visitors from wondering if they brought enough money for a group restaurant meal or whether they might be obliged to someone they just met.