So, You’re a Greeter...

Your church has chosen Altar Live as a way to deepen engagement online among your congregation.   Your role as a Greeter during Sunday service and other events will be one of the keys to helping people get the most out of the interactive experience.  

Who Makes a Good Greeter for Altar Live? 

Note: This section is intended for hosts in charge of assigning greeters. If this isn't you, feel free to skip ahead to the "Chat" section.

When you first consider assigning someone as a Greeter, you are probably thinking of your current welcome team for your physical church building. For sure, that is a great place to start. You have likely already discovered, though, that the same skills and gifts for welcoming in person -- good eye contact, a knack for recognizing faces, an easy smile, and a firm handshake -- do not readily translate to an online medium.

Your Greeters on Facebook and YouTube have probably learned a few easy ‘tricks’ to help draw attendees into the chat. They ask where people are tuning in from, or use ice-breaker questions (What’s your favorite pizza topping?). Go back to those events, and take a look at who has regularly chimed in with a response in the chat.  These people are clearly comfortable with online interaction, and respond positively to bids for relationship. 

You will likely be pleasantly surprised at some of the names. And, they also may be pleasantly surprised to be asked.  Some of them may be names of people who have never volunteered before. Some may be folks who usually leave the building directly after the service, who find the social chit-chat of fellowship time over coffee to be unappealing, but who are quite at home behind a keyboard and a screen. 

Many of them have probably never been directly, personally invited to be a Greeter or a member of your welcome team. When you inquire with them, start by recognizing their positive contribution to the life of your church’s online experience. Who knows? You may be uncovering many lights that have been hidden under bushels until this past year! So much of Covid and the switch to online has been disruptive and unwelcome. Here is a great chance for some who ordinarily have remained in the shadows to have a powerful impact on the culture of your community.

Assigning Greeters

Note: This section is intended for hosts in charge of assigning greeters. If this isn't you, feel free to skip ahead to the "Chat" section.

When the administrator for your church’s Altar Live community sets up an event, they will assign one or more Greeters. A few things about that assignment: 

  • Hosting and Greeting.  The admin will make you a Greeter, and will also give Host status to some Greeters. A host has a few extra capabilities (we’ll talk about them later).

  • Automated Greeter message. Altar Live pre-populates the Greeter message for you. Your admin can change it to something more personalized for your church, and change it for a particular event (baptism, wedding, movie night, Christmas concert, etc.).

  • If there is more than one Greeter, the automated message will be the same for all of them.

  • Greeters are identified with (Greeter) next to their names. 

Altar Live will send an email notification to everyone who has been assigned as a Greeter for the event.

Using the Chat

When attendees enter the event, they will see your greeting in the Welcome panel. If there are multiple Greeters assigned to an event, the system will randomly choose one Greeter’s message to appear for some attendees and other Greeters’ messages for other attendees. 

The attendee can Dismiss the message, or reply to it. If they hit Reply, they will be brought to the Message panel. 

The Message panel has two columns:  General Chat for messages that are visible to the entire audience; and My Chats, which are private conversations visible only to the people messaging each other.  

Your welcome message as a Greeter is a private conversation with each individual attendee. When they reply to you, those messages will be in your My Chats column as a private exchange between the two of you. 

Persistent Conversations

One extra thing to know about chats is that private direct message conversations between you and another person are persistent from one event to another. That is, if you started a conversation with an attendee last Sunday, that conversation will still be “live” next Sunday. This allows you to pick up where you left off without losing the context of your previous messages. 

For example, if an attendee sends you a message next week, you are not required to instantly recall all the details of your last conversation. The entire chat history is right there. Think of it like your phone’s text message history, where all your conversations are stored for future reference. 

Greeting Anonymous Attendees

Anonymous attendees are given the name Visitor + 4 digit number. This is a highly useful feature for you as a Greeter. You are able to see a full list of everyone present at the event. This is a powerful difference from social media pages, where no one is visible until they speak up in the chat.  In fact, this is the reason social media Greeters often ask big broad questions about favorite ice cream flavors or vacation spots. These icebreakers do more than just generate a bit of chatter -- they induce people to declare their presence by name. 

Think of visitors in your physical building, where some people happily wear a name tag, while others opt out when offered to stick a name tag on their shirt. They are still visible to everyone, just not identified. It’s the same in Altar Live. Everyone is visible. 

This provides you as the Greeter with the opportunity to initiate a conversation with anyone, and not have to wait until they ‘raise their hand’ in the chat. 

Anonymous attendees are able to watch the livestream, and can chat with a Greeter.  They can see the conversation thread in General Chat, but are not able to contribute to the General Chat.  Likewise, they are not able to take a seat in a row to sit together with another attendee. Only signed-in attendees have access to the full chat and videoconferencing features. 

Chat Moderation and Attendee Dismissals

As a Greeter, on a rare occasion you may find that the behavior of a particular attendee is unduly distracting and disruptive to others. A typical occurrence: an adult’s laptop or mobile phone has been temporarily taken over by a youngster who types “hi” over and over (and over and over) into the chat. It’s cute at first, but it clutters up the chat.

Greeters have the ability to delete chat entries made by others, an temporarily "time out" a use

Also, in the even less likely case that a bad actor has become a nuisance, Greeters have the ability to dismiss an attendee. That attendee is removed from the event, and will not be able to re-enter this event or any future event until they are re-instated by the admin.

Deepening Engagement

The heart of an experience in Altar Live is the small group videoconferencing. Sunday services and other church events on social media platforms are largely built around consumption. Greeters and leaders put tremendous energy into deepening real engagement on these platforms, but it is a steep uphill climb. A typical church service on social media will see about 10% of the attendees actually participate in the chat. And, of those 10%, almost half the contributions are made by the pastoral staff and just one or two other chat-intensive attendees. In other words, the engagement is not very broad, and it is not very deep. 

Why so shallow? 

In the online world, there’s a well-known ratio:  1% are creators of content, 9% are commenters on the content, and the other 90% are consumers (sometimes referred to as lurkers... that’s funny, nobody refers to people in your church building as lurkers).

The promise of Altar Live, and your role as a Greeter, is to foster meaningful engagement among the online attendees - much of which will happen in intimate conversations among two or three, or within a small group of a half dozen or more.  Traditionally, it happens in organic conversations in your fellowship room over coffee, nd out at lunch after service at a nearby restaurant, or in a conveniently located room off the sanctuary where there is space for quiet, private prayer. 

The rows and tables and rooms are an integral part of an Altar Live event. In a church building, no one really needs to draw a map or usher people to where they want to meet up with others.  Online, though, they need a little help, a little nudge, a little encouragement. This is where your presence as a Greeter calls for more than just a smile and a friendly face. 

Encourage Attendees To Take a Seat

Everyone watching the livestream sees a seating chart beneath the livestream video. But, until there are a lot of people sitting, many people choose to wait to see what others do. Who will be the first to sit? And who will join them? Your job is to help people overcome that inertia. 

Use General Chat to

  • let people know that the seats are for sitting together and seeing each other face to face. Do this several times at the beginning of the event, since some people will be arriving late. They can actually see the entire General Chat, but some people will not scroll back to the beginning to read everything.

  • At specific breakpoints in the service -- after worship, after readings or announcements, take advantage of the shift to remind people about seating.

  • When you see some people take a seat after your encouragement, affirm them publicly in the chat. 

Use Direct Messages to

  • Make a personal, direct invitation to someone to take a seat. This can be a simple invitation, or you may have some people in mind who will help generate momentum.

  • Create a group chat with two or three people who you think will be open to sitting together, and invite them to take a seat. Offer to sit with them, and take a seat yourself ahead of them.  Let them know where you are sitting, including if you are on the let or the right. “I’ve taken a seat in the third row on the left. Come join me for a bit and we’ll try out the face-to-face seating.”

  • Identify some people already sitting in a row of just 2 people. Send a message to one or both of them, or join them in their row, and ask them if they recognize anyone in the Member list who they can invite to join in that row. 

There is no need to force or compel anyone to take a seat. In fact, it is not unusual for most people to not sit during the livestream. 

  • About one-third to one-half choose to remain anonymous. This may be due to the fact that they have not found any good reason to sign in.  Your suggestions and invitations in Chat might move them to sign in, but don’t feel you need to ‘convert’ them.

  • About half of the signed-in attendees will choose to remain on the side. They are not comfortable on camera (or, maybe just not today), or they find it somehow odd to be looking at their online neighbors face to face while listening to the worship, readings, and sermon.

  • Some of the unseated people are simply waiting for the formal service to end, and will join face-to-face at tables in the Lobby. 

Making Announcements

Greeters help guide the flow of the service online by making Announcements. There are particular moments to bring everyone’s attention to what is going on -- a time of offering, corporate prayer, and transitions during and after the service. 

Any of the Greeters can create new announcements at any time, save them as drafts, and publish them at the appropriate time. 

There are three styles of announcements: 

Panel option: appears on the right side of the screen.

Modal option (pop-up): which appears in the middle of the screen to prevent attendees from missing a particularly important announcement

Notification option: appears in the lower right corner for less intrusive messages. These notifications will show up even if the attendee does not have the Messages panel open.

Your announcement can include a link that will open up a new tab alongside the current Altar Live tab. For example, you may want to link to: 

  • a church giving app on your website or a third-party website,
  • a Google doc for signing up for volunteer opportunities or an upcoming event
  • a photo library to view highlights from recent outing
  • a page with lyrics for the worship 
  • your church’s sermon library on YouTube or Vimeo

There is also one particular announcement that you as the Greeter will want to make: “Remain with us after the end of the service -- we will all move to the Lobby for fellowship.” In fact, you will want to mention this in the chat, and perhaps make more than one announcement about moving to the Lobby at appropriate times during the service. 

The Lobby is where a lot of engagement happens.

Moving to the Lobby

At the end of the service, any Greeter who has been assigned “Host” status is able to move the entire gathering from the auditorium where the livestream has been playing to the Lobby.  

Tip: It will be wise to make the announcement just as the formal service is coming to a close. In most church services, music plays an integral part. At an in-person gathering, this is a sign for everyone to get up and leave the auditorium, but not necessarily to leave the building! Many people gather in a room or the basement for fellowship over coffee. In Altar Live, when people hear the recessional, postlude music, you don’t want them to leave!  You want them to move to the Lobby.  Make sure you pre-empt that with a prominent modal announcement that pops up in the center of the screen, inviting everyone to continue fellowship in the Lobby. 

The process of taking a seat is the same in the Lobby as it is in the auditorium: attendees simply click on a seat at an available table, and they are joined by up to three other people in a private videoconference session. 

Some best practices to help Lobby fellowship flow naturally: 

Give a name to some tables. Consider inviting the pastor(s) to sit at a table to make themselves available. Click the pencil icon next to a table to edit the name -- Meet the Pastors, Meet Pastor Dave, Meet the Musicians, etc.  

Create other tables with a particular purpose: Next Steps, Welcome Table, Newcomers. During the early weeks, even a Tech Support table for people with questions about using the Altar Live platform. 

Note for Hosts: One table to think about: “Want to be a Greeter?”  You’ll always want more Greeters for Altar Live events. Give this label to one of the tables, and see who shows up. Make sure there is a Greeter there to greet them!

Encourage participation. You will notice quite a few wallflowers at first. Many of them need some encouragement or a gentle nudge to try the tables for the first time. 

  • Go ahead and use the General Chat to commend individuals for making the first move, e.g. “I see Latandra and Sarah have jumped in. Nice going!”

  • Point out the table names in the Chat. Some people might miss the names, and others simply need their attention brought to it before they decide to join.

  • Recruit other cheerleaders. When you see two or three people at a table, go ahead and drop in and see how they are doing. If they seem comfortable, ask one or more of them to make a comment in the Chat that this is a great new aspect of doing church online. “Wow, these tables are fun. It’s so good to see people face to face!”

  • Join singleton tables. If you see someone alone at a table, drop in to say hello. They may be waiting for a specific person to join, or they are open to having anyone come by and spend a little time.

  • Make introductions. If there is room at a table, and they are open to including another person, connect with one of the “wallflowers” (signed in, but not seated) by direct message, and see if they would be interested in joining that table.  It is best to start with the table with open seat, and then find a person. Otherwise, you may discover that you’ve invited the wallflower to join a table, but the only table with room is having a serious private conversation, and now there is an awkward circumstance.

  • Conduct a poll. The Lobby is an ideal place for an ice-breaker poll. Use the poll icon on the right side to create a simple poll: favorite pizza topping, preferred vacation destination, best sports hero in your town, bible trivia questions. Invite people to join a table according to their answer, and they can explain why their favorite ice cream is vanilla (this would not my table), or who thinks Tom Brady is the best vs. most-overrated quarterback. If one table fills up, go ahead and create another with the same label.

Other Good Greeter Habits

In general, your role as a Greeter is to make people feel welcome, seen, and heard. That means you can see and hear them, and it means that they feel can easily be seen and heard by others (and vice versa). 

You can do this by being extra-present at the event. 

  • Share affirmations in the chat.  Go ahead and say something in Chat -- repeat a favorite line from the worship song that is playing; cite a scripture verse from the reading or the message; commend the reader for reading a prayer or a personal story.

  • Where appropriate, mention people by name.

  • Be inviting, but not pushy. Some people are fine for now not signing in or sitting down.  Allow them their uninterrupted space.

  • After service, send a note of encouragement to selected attendees. Thank someone for contributing to the chat, and for taking the lead in joining a table. Recognize the light they shined to help make the online community connect and deepen in the relationship.
  • Similarly, for those who remained on the side, let them know you saw them there, and that you look forward to seeing them again.


Customizing Host & Greeter Badges

Learn how to set up your community, create events and meetings, and other admin features.

Learn More

Email Templates: Welcoming Your Community

Learn how to set up your community, create events and meetings, and other admin features.

Learn More

Quick-start Guide to Using OBS for Church

Learn how to set up your community, create events and meetings, and other admin features.

Learn More