7 Ways to Make Sure Your Guests Have the Best Experience Possible

Would you like every guest who attends your church to become an active and fruitful member?

I know. Dumb question.

It’s really a rhetorical question since all church leaders and members would respond with a resounding “Yes!”

So we tried something rather radical to find out what gives church guests a good experience. We asked them. The question was very straightforward: “What would you advise churches to do so that guests can have the best experience possible?” Here are their seven top responses:

  1. “Make sure your signage is clear and helpful in the parking lot. Our family of six rarely gets ready on Sunday morning without some level of conflict. I come to church stressed. I don’t need to be stressed further by not knowing where to go in the parking lot.”
  2. “Provide clear signage to entry points to the church. I am new to our area, so our family has been visiting churches. I have really been surprised how many churches do not have signs that clearly point to where we are to enter.”
  3. “Have a manned information booth [or table] right where we enter. Some churches put their information person or booth in such far out places that they are not useful at all.”
  4. “Greet me casually, not in a contrived stand and greet time. The stand and greet time is so artificial. I know how friendly a church is by the greetings I get when I enter and when I leave.”
  5. “Show me where to take my children. Even better, take me to where I am to take my children.”
  6. “Sit with me. I’ve been in some churches where we were avoided like the plague. No one sat with us.”
  7. “Explain things I might not understand. Even though I’ve been in church for over ten years, every church is a bit different. If your church does something that is not typical, let us guests know both the ‘what’ and the ‘why.’”

We can speculate what guests would like, or we can listen to them. We took the latter path and gleaned some nuggets of helpful information. Let us know what you think.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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7 Ways to Help Your Church Guests Feel Welcome Without Selling Out

We will do anything short of sin to reach people who don’t know Christ. To reach people no one is reaching, we’ll have to do things no one is doing. – Craig Groeschel

I know there are some church leaders who read that quotation from Craig Groeschel and throw up a little in their mouths. They’re convinced that their job is to preach the word and disciple people and not worry about stuff like guests’ experiences at services. In fact, some leaders look down their noses at churches that go out of their way to create environments that unchurched people love to attend. They’re concerned about growing Christ-followers and don’t want to worry about marketing, customer service, communications or similar issues. They just want to preach the word courageously and not concern themselves with pedestrian matters such as how people feel when they come to church.

The problem is that the Scriptures are clear that to worry about the outsider is core to being a follower of Christ. In fact, the entire weight of Scripture is about creating space for people who are outside of the faith to join us. Even in the Old Testament, we see God instructing his people to defer to strangers and make room for them at the table. In an age when faiths were divided along racial and ethnic lines, Jesus presented the crazy notion that anyone from any background can gain access to God through faith in him alone. (What a radical idea!) We see New Testament leaders attempting to live out a faith that created space for a broader community of people … they made space for outsiders.

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” – Colossians 4:5 (ESV)

Today, that leaves us to work out what this looks like for our churches. How can we create spaces where people feel welcome at our churches regardless of their spiritual background? What can we do to ensure that unchurched people know they are welcome to our experiences every weekend? How can we do this in a way that doesn’t compromise the core of our experiences, if we’re concerned about that? Here are 7 ways to help unchurched people feel welcome that don’t impact our teaching or music ministries:

  • Create Helpful Signage // Do people know how to find their way around your facility? Can they easily get from their cars to wherever they drop off their kids to their seats in the main auditorium? Most churches I’ve been to don’t have enough signage. They assume people know way too much. Exterior signage lets newcomers know they are in the right place. Interior signage should guide them through the experience while reducing stress.
  • Introduce Platform People // When someone gets up to talk from the platform, make sure they introduce themselves or that someone else does a quick introduction. “Hi, my name is James and I’m one of the pastors around here.” A simple introduction helps unchurched people get a sense of who everyone is and helps them know who they should talk to afterward. When people just get up and start talking or leading without any context, it leaves guests wondering who the person is and why they are talking.
  • Expect Guests // You know that feeling when you go a friend’s house and it feels like they were ready for you? It feels great, right? What about the opposite feeling: when you go over to someone’s house and you get the distinct feeling that they aren’t ready for you? It’s easy to start wondering whether they want you over at all, isn’t it? The same is true when guests visit your church. Even a few things that anticipate guests communicate that you are ready and expecting them. Examples include signs in the parking lot for new guests, a gift ready for them at an information desk, or trained volunteers at the kids’ check-in who know how to handle new guests well.
  • Explain What’s Happening // Every church has some form of ritual or patterns that it follows. If we don’t take a moment to explain them to people, they can be confusing to follow. Don’t assume people understand what is happening or that they know how they should engage. Communion is a particularly thorny one for people … are they supposed to dip not sip or take a gulp and then some bread? Slowing down and giving a brief explanation of what is taking place goes a long way in making sure people feel welcome! Taking time to frame what’s happening in your church during the announcements is also an important part of making guests feel welcome!
  • Give Context to Passages // Many people don’t know the Bible but they want to understand it better … that’s why they are coming to your church! Don’t assume people know anything about the passages that you are talking about; instead, provide a little context. This doesn’t need to be heavy Greek or a never-ending history lesson, just some understanding of where the Bible verses you are talking about fall into the broader narrative. Give some context so people can dig into the content you are presenting.
  • Serve Their Kids Well // When parents come to your church, they usually look at the experience through the eyes of their kids. When you go out of your way to serve their kids, you also serve their parents. Often, kids are nervous when they go into a new space. Make sure your team is ready to receive new kids well. Have activities that can engage kids right away. Guests often arrive earlier than your typical church attendee, so make sure your team is in place in plenty of time to greet guests well. Work hard to make sure the check-in process is smooth, simple and secure. Family ministry is a critical area for churches, so lead this team well.
  • Fix Your Website // 46% of church guests said that a church’s website was important in picking a church to visit. [ref] It really is the front door to your church. Chances are good that your guests will check out your site before they check out your services. Make sure the basic contact information is easy to find, including service times, the location and the phone number to call if people have any questions. Let people know what to expect by answering key questions, such as how long the service will be, what people usually wear and what services are provided for kids. Make sure your site is mobile-friendly so people can use it on their phone or tablet.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

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3 Questions to Improve Your First Impressions

Your first time guests often decide if they will return within the first ten minutes. Some are more forgiving and will give you a second chance, but most won’t.

The unchurched look for reasons not to return. Even though they were probably invited by a friend, even friendship can’t override a blown first impression.

It’s like your first visit to a restaurant. Your first ten minutes usually determines if you will return. Even if your experience “gets better” through the meal, your initial perspective is so skewed that it’s difficult to see past those first impressions. The way the hostess greeted you, the way you were escorted to a table, and the way you were treated for the first few minutes largely determines the remainder of the experience.

The same is true in your church. Your first impressions absolutely determine if the first time guest returns for a second time.

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Colossians 4:5-6

Here are three simple questions to help you improve your first impressions.

1) How do you Greet people?

We’ve all been in a restaurant where it seemed like we were intruding on the hostess’s reception area. It’s a terrible experience. We wait and wonder. We check in and are told, “As you can see we are very busy, we’ll get to you when we can.

In stark contrast, one of my favorite Mexican restaurants in San Diego always has a wait. They learn your name, bring out free chips and salsa, and if you wait too long, bring you a free iced tea!

How are people greeted in your church? What do your guests experience in the parking lot – smiles or impatient waving and pointing? Do your greeters make people feel like a million bucks or an inconvenience?

2) How do you Seat people?

That twenty second walk means everything. I’ve visited restaurants where the hostess walked slowly, made pleasant conversation, and asked if I was happy with the table. I’m already smiling. I’ve also experienced hostesses who seemed to sprint off, look back impatiently because I stopped to say hi to someone, dropped the menus off at the table and leave.

Whenever I see an usher pointing rather than walking a guest to a place to sit, I cringe. If the visitor knew where to go, they wouldn’t need an usher. Especially when a guest is late, they know they are late, so make them feel even more welcomed! Worship has already started, it’s dark, they can’t see well, and people are standing. That’s intimidating. You can put them at ease. You can make the difference that inspires them to come back! It’s the little things that matter.

3) How do you Treat people?

Whether it’s the leaders in the nursery, the person serving coffee, or the prompts from the worship leader, your guests should know if you care about them.

Treat each guest like they were a king or queen!

Go the second mile. If you don’t know the answer to a question, find the answer. Do all you can to make their experience warm, personal and engaging.

Serve with joy.

Be real, be yourself, and help each person feel right at home.

So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 7:12

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
Sorry, the author of this content has removed the links at the original source!
 
— VRcurator
 
The hypertext link is broken for the pdf download - can it be fixed? Thanks!
 
— Steve Elliott
 
What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.