City Harvest Church’s Greeters Ministry involves much more than handshakes and smiles. Ministry leader and pastoral supervisor Johann Sim talks about the essential role of the Greeters in ensuring churchgoers, especially newcomers, have the best possible experience.
The Greeters Ministry was created in 2006 by a group of volunteers who wanted to welcome newcomers to City Harvest Church at Jurong West. Over the past 12 years, the ministry has continued to be an indispensable part of CHC as the church transitioned from Jurong West to Singapore Expo to its current site at Suntec City.
The Greeters Ministry has been helmed by various pastoral staff. For the last seven years, the ministry head has been Johann Sim, husband to Pastor Eileen Toh who oversees Harvest Kidz, Dialect and JAMs ministries. Sim joined CHC in 2010, and was tasked to lead the Greeter Ministry in 2011. The ministry currently has 80 members, and each weekend around 30 Greeters serve the church.
This weekend you won’t be able to miss the Greeters Ministry recruitment drive that’s happening at Hall 605. Thinking about becoming a Greeter? Find out what you’re in for in this interview with Sim.
So Johann, what does the Greeters Ministry team do?
This ministry is really about helping both members and newcomers experience the love of God here at City Harvest Church. In our serving, we seek to do three very important things: to welcome, to accept and to value. We welcome members and newcomers with a smile and a greeting. How do we accept them? We have the unique opportunity to spot people who come to church alone, or they may have attended church for a long time but aren’t connected to a cell group. It’s our aim to look out for these people and to make them feel connected and welcomed. Finally, members and newcomers must feel valued. When you come into God’s house it is a totally different experience than daily life, and our ministry seeks to add to that experience.
Some people may not know, so can you tell us the difference between the church’s Greeters Ministry and its Usher Ministry?
The main difference is that the Greeters are a bit more mobile as part of our job is to welcome people and meet with overseas guests. The Usher team on the other hand are assigned to specific areas and have other important duties unique to them.
Why does the church need a Greeters Ministry?
The Greeters Ministry is here to help people experience the presence of God before the service starts. Many people don’t realize that whether a newcomer or member feels happy or comfortable in church is dependent on what happens before the service. If they have an unpleasant experience, for example, if they cannot find certain facilities or if they have to wait in a queue for a long time without someone coming to welcome them, I think that will affect their experience. Once, Pastor Kong [Hee] and Pastor Sun gave us this vision after their experience attending churches in the United States. Pastor Sun told me how the parking attendant, a volunteer, would say hello to them and welcome them right there in the carpark—that was their first encounter with anyone from the church. That’s how church should be: everything we do leads up to the altar call, and I’m a very big proponent of this—the altar call does not start when service starts, but before. I often emphasize to the Greeters that we can’t just focus on the newcomers. Our mission statement says that we are to bless the newcomers and members when they come, and we don’t take anyone for granted. Even if you have been a member for many years, you could have had a bad day or a rough morning, and when a Greeter says hello to you on a Saturday or a Sunday, it could make you conscious that you are stepping into God’s house. A cheerful word or kind action touches the heart, and it could make people ready for God to move during the service.
Greeters also serve a very practical purpose. Often we get newcomers who need information and help. I’m very proud of my Greeters because they really demonstrate the love of God, especially to our overseas visitors. There have been many instances when our Greeters brought overseas guests out for meals after the service. There was one instance a Greeter helped these visitors to purchase SIM cards for their phones. What’s amazing is that, because of these connections the same overseas guests would often call the Greeters before the service to say hello, wanting to reconnect with them.
What is the demographic of your team?
Presently, when we recruit people, the basic criteria are they have to be Ordinary Members of CHC, and have been in church for at least three years. We usually look for people who are in their 20s and above—but we’ll take those younger than 25 who carry themselves well! If you’re reading this and you’re keen to find out more, come talk to us this weekend at Hall 605!
How often do Greeters serve?
We encourage all our Greeters to serve weekly with one week’s break in a month so there is consistency. We have at least four opportunities to meet as a whole team per year; we come together every quarter for training or fellowship so that all the Greeters meet. The highlight of our year is in the last quarter when we have our Appreciation Night.
What is your dress code?
Both gentlemen and ladies put on our specially-designed Greeter cardigans. For the men, the uniform is a cardigan over a long-sleeved white shirt and tie. That is what we call our cardigan dress code but they don’t wear this every week. They alternate between the cardigan dress code and what I loosely call “bright and colorful”. Pastor Sun was instrumental in the introduction of the cardigan dress code as she wanted an attire that would stand out and look approachable. The cardigans enable the Greeters to be easily identified by the crowd; churchgoers know who to turn to if they require assistance. During special services, we will put on our own best personal outfits—I like to see my team in bright and colorful clothes that express their personality and style.
How does one join the Greeters Ministry?
There are two avenues if you want to join. Number one is to sign up through our website, number two, which is preferred, is going through a pastor or cell group leader who recommends you through the church CMS system. Being recommended and validated by a leader is important because we want to find the right people to represent the church.
What characteristics do you look for in a person wanting to join your team?
You definitely need to be warm, friendly; you need to be sharp in the way you present yourself and you need to possess the bility to spot needs. I am very blessed that my team goes the extra mile and the majority of them are exceptional in this area. It’s this quality I really look out for or try to train every Greeter to have.
Describe a typical Sunday for the Greeters team on duty.
On a Sunday morning we meet at 9 am, but there is an team that comes in early to set up the Hot Spot which serves as our visitors lounge. The early team and tidies the lounge area and ensures that our Starbucks order arrives: we have a standing order with Starbucks on service days—50 Tall-sized cups. It’s always nice to be able to bless newcomers with a cup of coffee in the morning. The Greeters also prepare iced water with mint and fruit—every week they surprise me with different flavors. They really put excellence into what they do. At 9am, we have a 15 minute briefing, and ministry members will either share a devotion or a testimony from their serving experiences and answer prayer requests. Once a month we celebrate all the birthdays of that month. By 9.20am, the team take their positions at various stations: eight teams will cover the sanctuary, the hall in 605, as well as all the entrance points to the church. The group in the hall engage and talk to churchgoers. There are times when they feel lead to pray for the members who come early. Those outside the hall not only welcome people at the lifts and the escalators but also identify and assist parents that come with kids or help anyone who is lost. On a typical Sunday, we do all these things right up to the praise and worship time because members and newcomers are usually still streaming in at 10.20 or 10.30. After that, all those serving outside will enter the hall and join in the service.
So you seamlessly integrate all those arriving into the service? A sort of “come this way” sort of thing?
Yes (laughs). We train our Greeters to help people register their children for Harvest Kidz or the Nursery. Our Greeters are also trained to assist Chinese-speaking members and newcomers. During service, when the pastor invites newcomers to stand up, all newcomers will receive a Welcome card, which they bring to the Hot Spot after service to get a gift and a handcrafted coffee!
So it’s your team that hands out the Welcome cards?
The ushers help, but we are around to shake the newcomers’ hands. One reason we do this, is that knowing where the newcomers are, we can meet them after the service and invite them back to the Hot Spot. During altar call, Greeters are stationed in various positions so they can thank the people for coming and also to invite newcomers over to the Hot Spot.
Your team does a lot. I had no idea.
What are some of the funnier moments that have happened while you have been serving?
I served as a Greeter when I joined this ministry, and I didn’t realize that it wasn’t as easy as it seemed. This ministry was formed in the Jurong West days in 2006 and they were already well-established when I joined. When we moved from Jurong to Expo, I found it so nerve-wracking to just approach someone and say hello. So one day, I asked the Holy Spirit to lead me to a couple that I can bless. The very first time I approached this couple, they were by themselves, sitting at the end of a row with no cell group in sight. It was early in the morning: the guy was reading a newspaper and the lady was using her phone when I tried to engage them. I thought they were new so I kept talking to them and but I kept stuttering and stumbling until the very kind man put his hand on my shoulder and said “Young man, please don’t worry about us. I was a Greeter before and I know how you feel.” I was glad he had a sense of humor! However, it ended up being a divine appointment after all, as during our conversation, I found out that I was their son’s teacher in Harvest Kidz. I had a very special relationship with this boy, as he was really unique and I was so glad that I could meet his parents. That made me realize that every connection is a divine connection when we are led by God. But I do think God let me off the hook with the first couple I tried to talk to. (laughs)
Any particularly challenging experiences?
Part of our job is also to host overseas church delegates; these are people who write in asking to visit our church. Greeters are usually the first point of contact. I remember one time, we received word that a group of about 20 people would be arriving but the group that showed up was double that! Many more people had to be activated but we managed to put things together and led the group to the hall. Five minutes before the service started, another group of 20 people showed up, from the same country! That was when we realized that the group that came later was the group we were to host. But despite the fact that there was a mix-up due to language issues, the first group said that they felt so blessed by our help; it was as if we somehow knew that they were coming. After the whole experience, we learned that we have to communicate better and to find better interpreters! But we also learned that God always has a solution prepared for unexpected situations.
Greeters Ministry sounds like a great way to serve the church—but why should people serve, to begin with?
Simply because Christ has set the example by coming to serve. On a more personal basis, I feel that through serving, we find ourselves and through spending our time and effort in serving we discover our purpose, talents and giftings. The amazing part about our church is that there are so many ministries to choose from. I want to encourage everyone to serve because how you are made—your life’s experiences, your talents and your giftings—it’s all put there by God and there is a divine purpose to it. I think there is no better training ground than the church to learn, to be molded and refined. It is also through your serving that you get to lean on God. I strongly believe the church is a great training ground for us to make a great impact in the world and the marketplace.
Any final words you want to share with us about the Greeters Ministry?
Two of us—Agnes Soh and me—oversee this ministry. We are very blessed by such a passionate and committed group of volunteers, who selflessly serve, week in and week out. Between Agnes and I, we have many pastoral duties so we can’t be there all the time, but our volunteers are so amazing. I just want to give a special shout-out to the Greeters, for helping churchgoers to experience the love of God through their serving. I couldn’t more proud to serve in this ministry.
Greeters Ministry is recruiting this weekend! If you think you’d like to be part of the Greeters Ministry, be sure to visit Hall 605 this weekend and find out more.