Some years ago we conducted a survey on parish life for the OCA as part of the Orlando AAC. One question asked parishes to (self) describe their most positive characteristic. Overwhelmingly growing and declining parishes claimed to be "very friendly". Obviously "self evaluated" friendliness is not important to what causes parishes to grow.
We recently read a brief article in the newsletter of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership exploring what caused visitors to return to a church. Sure enough "friendliness" was the most important factor. Interestingly when visitors were asked how they defined friendliness their answer was "The number of people that talk to me". Simple.
A warm greeting is important but guests say they base their "friendliness" assessment on how many people talk to them within ten minutes after the service.
Furthermore they were asked when they made the determination of whether a church was friendly or not. The leading answer was within ten minutes of the end of the service.
Receiving a greeting upon entering can be nice and helpful. Passing out a bulletin. Smiling warmly. Good Morning! Welcome! However we've encountered a number of people who have related stories of how it took them a number of visits to a church before they had the nerve to stay for coffee hour. What will it be like? Will I have someone to talk to?
The most important time for greeting people is after church. A time when it is virtually impossible for assigned "greeters" to be effective. Therefore whether you are part of a greeters ministry or not you are the most important greeter in your parish.
Practice these words: "Would you like to join me for a cup of coffee?"