I can highly recommend Welcoming Touch Ministries and Ward Utterback to my fellow pastors and churches. Bethel Church had Ward with us two years ago! We still are implementing the many things that we learned and plan to continue! Everyone who visits Bethel mentions how friendly and warm the people were. I am so glad to share something that will help us declare the gospel in a better way!
Pastor Charlie Martin
Bethel Baptist Church
I married into Windsor United Church of Christ (WUCC) in Windsor, Wisconsin 49 years ago. My wife was baptized and confirmed there so we pretty much know every member. Over the years it was noticeable to us that we weren’t growing proportionally to the community. Various things had been tried but nothing seemed to have a lasting impact that was noticeable. So I brought the issue up to a few members and they agreed something needed to be done. The journey with Welcoming Touch Ministries, Incorporated had begun.
I warned people that we soon would find out just how “friendly” WUCC really was. With church leadership approval, Ward [Utterback] and I scheduled an Unannounced Visit service when there was a large youth program guaranteeing most of the congregation would be in attendance. He [Ward] came and sat 2/3rds of the way back on the right hand side of the sanctuary. After the service was over he sat in the chair and not one single person came up to greet him. I was right! It was a real eye opener for the rest of the core group and they were eager to do something about it.
Ward came back (I actually wondered if he would!) and worked with us. He preached a sermon [A Welcoming Church Culture] and held a [Welcoming] Workshop. Both ministry services were very well received. In addition we received a custom written WUCC Welcoming Ministry Manual which will always be a go-to reference. Our Choir Director has taken over the Greeters and many of us continue to show by example how to go up and meet a stranger using the techniques Ward shared with us.
Today the church is more filled each Sunday and we receive many warm comments about how much it means to have somebody stand at the door and be welcomed. We have two umbrella buckets ready to assist people when the weather is wet.
A few weeks before Christmas I noticed a stranger sitting near the back of the sanctuary. I introduced myself to her and encourage two other people to go over and do the same. Other people introduced themselves after the service but she didn’t get up. I went over when the sanctuary was nearly empty and she started weeping. My wife came over and we took her into an office where she felt comfortable. We talked and prayed with her for quite a while. Satan rules a very cruel world. She has been back every Sunday and many people have come up to her, introduced themselves and welcomed her.
One young young couple visited at Thanksgiving as they were “church shopping”. When introducing themselves to the congregation the day they join the church the husband said they came her one time and didn’t need to go [church] shopping anymore!
Other strangers have been welcomed warmly and are starting to return. Welcoming Touch Ministries was the catalyst we needed. The techniques Ward teaches are now such a natural thing we don’t even think about it. It has even allowed men to invite men to men’s group.
I like to think of this program as not being completed. It is the beginning! Thanks Ward!
Windsor United Church of Christ
When you come to church every Sunday, it is difficult to see people, facilities and Sunday worship as a guest. We asked Ward [with Welcoming Touch Ministries, Inc.] to come for an “Unannounced Visit” last July so that we could see how someone new to Calvary would see us. During the visit, Ward played the role of a guest perfectly. He assumed nothing and saw much while at the church. He made several pages of observations and included areas where we were doing well and areas that could use improvement. In areas needing improvement, he gave us several good suggestions. As a church, we were able to discuss and then implement changes that helped to make Calvary a more welcoming church. All we needed was a set of “fresh eyes” to make it happen!
Pastor Rod Ankrom
Calvary Baptist Church
I wanted to drop you a note to say how much we appreciate your ministry “Welcoming Touch.” It was so great to meet you in Wisconsin at the camp and to see your beautiful state and hear how God was leading in your life with the vision and dream of serving Churches around the Country. When you came to Bethel Baptist Church in Vilas, N.C. last year to help us in training to be a more welcoming Church, you came by faith. I so appreciate you being willing to come to a smaller Church. When I left First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks in Largo, Florida, I was leaving a Church of 8000 members where I had served for 37 years. We came to Bethel in North Carolina with less than 50 people attending. The Church is 165 years old and in a very remote, rural area. What a transition! We are now in our 8th year and God is blessing “big time”. Your ministry was so helpful and I can’t tell you how impactful that weekend was here at Bethel. Thanks for being so open to reaching out to churches of all sizes! I look forward to meeting up again this September in Wisconsin!
Pastor Charlie Martin
Bethel Baptist Church
Dear Church Leader,
I am serving as Interim pastor of a smaller church that had gotten comfortable. They began to realize their need to become a more welcoming and growing church. Sometimes all you need is an outsider to issue the wake-up call. Ward Utterback did just that. He asked me to help prepare the church for his visit and conference. The leadership knew what was coming and the impact of Ward’s Conference blew their socks off. One of our men has made Welcoming his ministry and he trains others in how to keep this ministry alive and well.
The church is much more welcoming and has grown. Now we have the luxury of experiencing some growing pains. They know now it “doesn’t just happen” but takes deliberate plans and actions if we are going to continue to grow and continue to be a welcoming church.
I want to recommend to you “Welcoming Touch Ministries” and Ward Utterback. Visitors will begin to become regulars and growth really can be achieved.
Dr. Dennis Hansen
National NAMB Missionary
Church Planting Catalyst
Welcoming Touch Ministry helped our church see what a first time visitor or guest experiences when they come to our Sunday morning worship service. It [Unannounced Visit] gave us fresh eyes that we do not have. It helped us understand some very important areas we can improve on and to celebrate. Our leadership appreciated both the strengths and the growth areas. The follow-up discussion about the detailed report was most beneficial. Ward (or Welcoming Touch Ministries) provides wonderful insights.
Southtown Baptist Church
Last October we had Ward Utterback, from Welcoming Touch Ministries, come and teach our leaders about starting a powerful welcome ministry. We knew we needed training in this area because God was sending us dozens of visitors, but we retained less than 10% of them. After trying many things ourselves, we decided to contact Ward.
The class was about three hours long and worth every minute. Ward explained to us the purpose behind a welcome ministry and the process we needed to go through to make the biggest impact on guests. Everyone that took the class walked away encouraged and equipped to make a difference.
Since we have received the training Welcoming Touch Ministries provided us, things have changed for the better. We now have a welcome ministry that is intentional and impactful. Our guest retention rate has gone from slightly above 5% to about 40%. God continues to send new people our way and now we are actually making the most of those opportunities. God really used Ward and Welcoming Touch Ministries to better equip us to connect people to; God, God’s people and God’s purpose.
Roseville Baptist Church highly recommends Ward Utterback and Welcoming Touch Ministries. If your church wants to make the most of the opportunity God brings your way, when guests come through your doors, then you need to have Welcoming Touch Ministries and Ward Utterback come and train your people. Ward loves Jesus and is passionate about welcoming people into the Lord’s house. His excitement is contagious and his research and strategies are not only useful, they are transformational. We are so glad we contacted Ward and you will be too!
Pastor Jackie Hill
Roseville Baptist Church
Thank you for the opportunity to recommend Welcoming Touch Ministries. I can recommend your ministry because I was able to experience the difference that the Welcoming Program made at Trinity Baptist Church. When my wife and I first visited Trinity Baptist Church we found a fine Bible-believing church made up of sincere believers who were seeking to become more Christ-like in their relationship with our Savior. What we did not find was a church which made us feel particularly welcome. When we again visited Trinity, a few years later after you developed the Welcoming Program, we saw a dramatic difference. In some ways it was as if we were attending a different church. We no longer felt like “attendees”, we now felt as though we were being welcomed into a family.
Years later, as an Elder and Small Group Ministry Point Person at Trinity, I saw the Kingdom value of a “welcoming culture”. As I spoke with newcomers and read completed visitor cards, I saw that Trinity’s welcoming environment was one of the primary reasons that first time visitors returned to Trinity. And while I realize that enlarging God’s Kingdom must be grounded on the accurate and winsome exposition of His Word, I also understand that new attendees may never claim that blessing if they do not return for subsequent visits.
I can heartily recommend Ward Utterback’s Welcoming Touch Ministry because I have seen the difference that a “welcoming culture” makes in a church body, over time. Ward has a winsome personality and his enthusiasm for what he does is contagious, in a very positive way. If your church body wishes to be intentional about disciple-making, Welcoming Touch Ministries can assist you in planting a seed which, if properly cultivated, will bloom into a “welcoming culture” that makes newcomers want to return for more.
Elder & Small Group Ministry Leader
Trinity Baptist Church
To Church Leaders of Welcoming Ministries,
I am writing to give an enthusiastic endorsement to Ward Utterback and the Welcoming Touch Ministries. Our Connections Team (the Welcoming Ministry of the church) recently hosted a workshop that trained our people in the activities of welcome and assimilation with Ward as our guest presenter. Our experience was very positive.
From the initial meeting to learn of Ward’s ministry to the final moments of the workshop, Ward exhibited servant leadership and expertise. His passion for helping guests feel welcome in a local church was contagious. But even more than that, he presented material that was practical and transferable to any local situation. The very next day, we implemented some of the principals he presented and our congregation was noticeably encouraged. He also left us with ideas that we can use to build our welcoming ministry in the future.
Welcoming Touch Ministries is a wonderful resource for any church interested in helping guests feel welcome in their first visit, as well as laying the foundation of love and safety that encourages them to return. I highly recommend Ward to any church that desires to increase their welcoming quotient.
For the love of Christ and His Church,
Harvest Evangelical Free Church
Beaver Dam, WI.
Rolling Hills Church (RHC) was blessed by a [Welcoming Workshop] presentation from Ward of the Welcoming [Touch Ministries, Inc.] in May of 2013. The tools he provided the RHC welcoming team with have been invaluable. We were taught the basics of being a greeter, the great importance this role has on members and guests alike, what our responsibilities should entail, how we can show the love of Christ through this role, and much, much more. Ward was enthusiastic, comprehensive, and kept the presentation very interactive. We strongly encourage other churches who are looking to show the love of Christ well through their Welcoming ministry to be blessed by this presentation as well. Let it encourage and light a fire in your Greeting [Welcomer or Usher] team, just as it did with ours!
Greeting Team Leader
It’s always a challenge to make guests feel welcome without overwhelming them; but it’s very sad when people visit your church and aren’t engaged at all by people in your fellowship! It was so very helpful to have Ward evaluate us on a pre-op covert mission [an Unannounced Visit service] and explain to us where we were OK, and where we could improve. We knew the need, but we weren’t sure how or where to improve our welcoming warmth to visitors.
That’s where Ward Utterback simply shines. Our team was very well informed, energized, and equipped to make visiting Rolling Hills Church a positive experience for our guests. This little nugget – “85% of visitors who come back the second week in a row eventually join the church, so INVITE THEM BACK NEXT WEEK!” – was an eye-opener for me. It was an excellent investment for our church, and I wholeheartedly recommend Welcoming Touch Ministries to EVERY church that wants to take the first step of honoring and retaining those who visit your church!
Pastor Jeff Nettles
Rolling Hills Church