Well, we all know how important first impressions are, right? When I walk into a new environment, I want to feel as comfortable as possible and as welcome as possible. Think of the difference that makes – especially in a church setting. It can be a game-changer or sometimes a life-changer. That’s why an appropriate and well-thought-out welcome gift for first-time guests at our churches is such a fantastic idea. We will give you some quick ideas, but I would encourage you to ask a question for your individual church needs.
Should We Even Give a Gift At All?
Before we go into what we think are some good ideas for welcome gifts for first-time church visitors, each individual church should ask the question. Should your particular do it at all? There are great churches that choose to give a first-time gift and some do not. We won’t debate that here.
We’re just giving ideas if you choose do that to help welcome your guests, And, if we give a first-time visitor a gift, how can we do it without making our guests feel weird?
Well, we are going to talk about that in just a bit. However, if you have already made that decision and need some ideas, we will go ahead and give you our quick list. Then, later on in the article we can discuss those in more detail and have a discussion about whether we want to do welcome gifts at all.
Creative Welcome Gifts For First-Time Church Visitors
Right off the bat, let’s be practical. You may have limited resources and can’t possibly choose some of the things on our list. Or, maybe you can swing one or two of them. Just adapt to fit your needs. Some of the suggestions below won’t be practical for everyone.
However, maybe you will find one good idea on this page and that will be worth it for us! Before we dive in deeper, let’s kick things off with some quick gift ideas.
Whether you’re planning to fill a gift bag or give individual items, these ideas should get your creative juices flowing! Each of these ideas is something that would be included as a part of a gift basket or package.
Here is a quick list:
- Gift Card to a Local Coffee Shop
- Custom Coffee Mug (Or Stadium Cups for a Less Expensive Option)
- Snack pack with various food items
- Pocket-sized notepads
- Personal Care Kit
- Reusable Shopping Bag
- Coloring Book and Crayons for Families
- Church Swag
- Flash Drive with a Welcome Video
- School Supplies
- Statement of Faith
- Handwritten Note
Now, For More Details
Affordable but thoughtful welcome gifts for first-time church visitors can help you roll out the welcome mat and take a step toward letting newcomers know that you care and that they matter to the church!
A well-thought-out gift can go a long way in making that crucial first impression a memorable one.
We never know what those first-time visitors might be experiencing in their lives and each small gesture that we can do might be a gesture that can touch them in some way that stays with them a long time.
“The Heart and Impact of Welcoming First-Time Visitors”
Now, let’s dig a little deeper. You might be asking, “Why all the fuss about first impressions?” Sure, a good welcome gift is nice, but what’s the bigger picture here?
1. The Responsibility to Show the Love of Christ
Our motivation in having a welcome gift for first-time church visitors should not be so our church would look successful or just have larger numbers. It should be the love of Christ. In a small way by giving these gifts, we want to let our new guests know that He cares about them and we care.
Sure, we want to build up our church community and our ministry opportunities. However, with the highest motivation being the love of Jesus Christ then we might just take a bit more time to make first-time guest gifts as special as we possibly can.
You’ve heard many times that you only get one time to make a first impression. We know how much first impressions matter. That’s especially true for first-time visitors to a church. However, we know that even the most elaborate welcome bag for first-time guests can fall flat if something about the gift doesn’t sincerely convey love.
2. Remember Your First Time?
Let’s face it, walking into a new church can be intimidating and it’s easy to forget that. Maybe you were raised in church as a child. However, if not, try to remember how you felt when you first came into a new church environment.
Many long-term families in a church might stay in the same church for many decades so it’s easy to forget how being a new person in a church can be uncomfortable. In my last position on a church staff, I stayed for 20 years. When my wife and I began visiting other churches it felt weird and uncomfortable – and we were accustomed to being in church every week.
So, how much more so can the unchurched feel uncomfortable coming into a church service environment? The point is that if you’re on a church staff or a part of the welcome team at your church, you need to keep in mind that some people are going to come in who are not so comfortable as first-time visitors.
3. A Welcome Worth Sharing
Good experiences may very well get shared with others. When your first-time visitors leave your church feeling positive and welcomed, they may also share that experience with friends and family who might be looking for a place of worship.
We don’t want to overshoot the mark and make our first-time guests feel weird about that whole thing. However, if we manage to make a great first-time impression, the guest is likely to share that impression with others.
4. Possibilities of a Divine Encounter
We don’t want to overstate this, but let’s look at what could be and pray for what might be. What if a guest’s first-time experience with your church becomes a pivotal point in their lives? What if they find encouragement to face the tough circumstances they are facing?
What if God uses your church to touch this person in great need? God can certainly do what He wants without any type of church visitor gifts. But, what if it were to play a small part, or maybe an important part in getting the person to give the church and the message of Christ a second look?
Let’s not rule out the possibility that, even in choosing a gift or assembling a gift bag, we might be playing a small part in something life-changing for someone.
Classic Choices for Welcome Gifts
Okay, let’s go deeper with the ideas that we gave earlier. Here are some more details about the list of welcome gifts for first-time church visitors that we offered near the top of the page. Use these or adapt them to what your needs and environment might require.
Everyone loves a good cup of joe! You can buy a bulk of gift cards to a national brand, or work out a deal with a locally owned mom-and-pop shop and make your own gift certificates. This is a hit with pretty much anyone and can be a great way to support local businesses.
Custom Coffee Mug (Or Stadium Cups for a Less Expensive Option)
I love mugs and cups. As a matter of fact, I have a collection of coffee mugs. With your church logo on it, it’s a daily reminder of their visit. Either one of these can be great options.
Think granola bars and other healthy and convenient snacks that visitors can enjoy on the go. Bottled water is a good option, and maybe some local treats. It’s practical and shows you care. How about Coffee Sachets or Tea Bags that can serve as a way for guests to enjoy a warm drink later?
A Personalized cookie in the shape of a heart, or other meaningful shape, or no particular shape at all can be wrapped and labeled with a welcoming message. You can also think about a few miniature chocolates or mints. These can act as a sweet ending to their visit.
If possible, you might want to have some gluten-free or vegan options. It’s thoughtful to include a small variety of allergy-friendly items for those with dietary restrictions.
A pocket-sized notepad can offer spiritual encouragement and serve someone at home or perhaps at work for new visitors.
Personal Care Kit
You can let the ideas flow with this one. You might include some travel-size toiletries like hand sanitizer, tissues, and a small first-aid kit. Practical but thoughtful!
This can hold all the other gifts and serve a practical purpose later on. Plus, it’s an eco-friendly choice!
If the family has children, this can help keep the little ones engaged and is a nice touch for families.
With this, you can think of magnets, stickers, or customized gift pens with your church’s logo. These are items that might be incorporated into a gift bag. A lot of churches have done and still do this, but it can still leave a lasting impression.
Now, this one can be a very interesting way to get a guest to learn more about your church and allow someone, preferably the Senior Pastor, to speak to the guest via a video. With the flash drive, they can pop it into their computer when they get home and get a world of info about your church.
This one is a bit more tech-savvy and many people will enjoy it. You can also provide photos of events, and activities or promote some future events with this item.
Families know the cost of school supplies that aren’t furnished by many school systems. It’s not a bad idea to have a few school supply-themed bags on hand during the time of the year before school starts.
A Statement of Faith
Most people will come into your worship service caring much more about exactly what you believe than they care about a free gift, even if your church can afford a generous welcome gift. This is where a small brochure or a nice-looking sheet of paper that contains your church’s statement of faith.
This is a personal touch that may cost some time but not much money. Again, this might best be from the Senior Pastor, but other staff members would work also. Resist the urge to do one and copy it even if you have great printing equipment. This could be the touch that really sends the message that you care.
How to Give a Gift & Get The Guest Information
If you do give a first-time guest a gift, do it in a way that does not embarrass the guest nor make them feel uncomfortable.
The last thing you want to do is to have a welcome gift be a turn-off to a guest. So, keep that in mind. I would encourage you to let the guest easily pick up the gift in some way without feeling like they are standing out.
I can remember in the first church that I served in full time, we would get the visitor to fill out an information card, and THEN – we would actually take them up during the offering and the pastor would read the names from the stage after the offering was collected and have the guest to raise their hands.
So, everyone in the church looked at them. Well, that was about 40 years ago and I would HIGHLY encourage you not to do ANYTHING like that these days!
Also, at the invitation of a friend, my wife and I recently visited a church location that we had not visited before for a special service. When the pastor gave the welcome to the visitors and gave the instructions about the fairly complicated procedure for the new guests to get a welcome package, my wife just turned to me and said, “Nobody’s going to do that.”
Well, maybe not “nobody,” but I also thought the procedure was too complicated and was too much trouble for a new guest and perhaps most guests would not do it. We wouldn’t have and we didn’t. You have got to be intentional enough to make it an easy process for a guest without making them feel like an alien from another planet.
If you want to make a great first impression don’t do anything before, during, or after the worship service that would embarrass a guest. One of the best ways you can communicate with and get information from a guest is through electronic options.
Electronic Options For Connecting With Guests
Some churches may have effective ways for email follow-up if they have a way to get the email address of the guest. You can follow up with an invitation for next week, remind them of special service times, or promote your social media links.
However, I don’t think that is initially as effective as a text message option. Many churches are now using various text messaging services or platforms where they can allow the guest to text a number, phrase, or comment to a text number, thereby getting their permission to follow up with them by text.
Make sure that with any electronic option that you take, you should always have a way for them to unsubscribe easily – no questions asked.
Many churches will provide something like a “First Steps” area that the pastor or person doing the welcome can invite guests to visit on the way out after church.
Depending on the size of the church the guest may meet a church staff member or perhaps the church pastor and be offered the welcome gift in that environment.
Since you may be reading this from many places in the world, I might suggest that you check with other churches in your area and try to find out what method might be working well in your area of the country or world.
The welcome gifts for first-time church visitors can be used as a great opportunity to touch lives, however briefly, and might become the catalyst for a deeper relationship with your guests and being able to minister to them through your church.
Remember, the key to a meaningful gift is not just what’s in the bag but the heart behind it. Let your gifts be a genuine expression of God’s love, serving as a warm invitation to come and see what your church community is all about.
By thoughtfully considering each element—from snack packs or pens to the personal care kits, or your statement of faith, and even down to how you collect contact information—you can make a significant impact on someone’s first visit to your church.
Plus, by all means, do it in a way that will not give your guests an embarrassing experience or put them in a situation where they are feeling pressured or even manipulated.
And who knows? This first visit could very well be the beginning of a lifelong journey in faith.
God bless you as you continue to serve!