Dirty Dozen: The 12 surprising things guests are thinking when they visit your church

December 20, 2017

  1. What’s the web address?
    Guests will likely visit your website before they attend service. Ask someone who doesn’t go to your church to give an honest review of your website. What does it communicate? Is it current? Easy to use? Does it display well across multiple devices? Make sure your site is truly conveying the life and heart of your church!

  2. Which door is it?
    The architecture of your church seems to indicate a main entrance but you haven’t used that door since 2009 when you added the new wing. Help newcomers enter the right door by adding exterior signage or freestanding banners near your primary entrance.

  3. I hope I can find the ________.
    Worship service, restrooms, coffee, children’s classrooms, you name it. If you have newcomers, you have lost people. Literally, lost in your building. Assess your current signage to make sure your campus is easy to navigate. Even better? Have volunteers available to help guide guests!

  4. We’re late! (Maybe this was a bad idea.)
    Newcomers often don’t allow enough time to park, find the entrance, check in kids, etc. Because of this, their first visit might start out on rough footing. Make sure your children’s check-in is efficient and appropriately staffed so guests can take their child to class and keep moving to the service. 

  5. Do I have to pay for this?
    We’ve seen churches take various approaches when it comes to coffee, doughnuts, snacks, etc. Whether you have a coffee bar or a coffee pot, keep it simple and hospitable, with signage when needed. If there is normally a charge for coffee/doughnuts, consider waiving the cost for first-time guests.

  6. Would I be open to coming back? Or, would I recommend this to a friend
    Guests will share their experience at your church with others - possibly online. What are you hoping they will say? What processes/volunteers/opportunities  have you created so your guests walk away with a positive review?

  7. Are they going to ask me for money?
    A few carefully chosen words around your offering time can really put guests at ease. And don’t hesitate to let them know how it’s being used. Share stories of how God is at work through the gifts of the congregation.

  8. My life is pretty good. Should I really spend my time on this?
    On a regular basis, share stories that illustrate how your church unites to care for people in need. Even people who feel like life is almost perfect are open to being part of something bigger than themselves. Offer compelling stories with next steps on how they can get involved.

  9. Well, I’ve tried everything else.
    Some people are just fine. Others are in a difficult life circumstance and reach out to a church as a last option. People in crisis may not feel up to navigating your connection process - especially if the steps are unclear or take too long to follow. Keep it simple and easily accessible.

  10. I hope someone talks to me. I hope no one talks to me.
    Does your guest experience allow for various types of people, personalities and preferences? Encourage your volunteers to be hospitable and attentive when it comes to interactions with visitors. Answer questions, draw attention to potential next steps and take cues from the guest on when to wrap up the conversation. Hospitality focuses on the guest’s needs not the church’s attendance goals.

  11. Eek! That looks dirty. What else are they ignoring?
    That smelly restroom, disorganized lobby, torn wallpaper, loose baseboard or water-stained ceiling tiles? You’re hoping guests don’t notice it but they do. Add it to the “to-do” list - with a deadline. 

  12. Huh?
    Clear is better than clever. If someone attends church for the first time in his/her life, could they participate in your service and/or understand the message? Know when to stand, sit, sing? Keep ministry terms simple, limit acronyms, avoid insider lingo and explain practices in service that may be unfamiliar to a a newcomer.
Do you want to dive into your church's guest experience and live in the Denver area? We're hosting a free pop-up workshop at Mission Hills Church! Learn more here!
Jamie Shafer

Communications Strategist