Does Your Church Accommodate Visitors or Expect Guests?

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When it comes to churches, more often than not we accommodate visitors rather than truly expect Guests.

It may be a little thing to you, seeming like mere wordplay, but there is actually a powerful first impression that needs to change if your approach is to accommodate visitors on Sunday rather than to expect to have Guests at your church.

Do you have Visitor parking? Visitor packets? A Visitor’s Center? Do you welcome your visitors during the worship experience? And on and on…

The first step in creating a memorable Guest experience is to remove the word “visitor” from your vocabulary, never to be used again. Think about it, what kind of person is a visitor at your house, as opposed to a Guest?

It’s a small thing to be sure. But often changing one small word in your church’s vernacular can reflect a substantial mental shift, impacting the entire experience of someone new. One word change can draw someone back the next weekend, and one word can begin to close the proverbial back door of your church.

What would it look like to expect Guests this Sunday?

Guests come to your church, looking for a warm greeting, a smiling face, and an experience carefully crafted to welcome them and point them to Christ. This type of expectation does not require anything phony, manipulative, or in-your-face; just leaders who will welcome them as Guests with the most sincere, energizing, and loving experiences they can.

When it comes to understanding and welcoming Guests, the Disney organization has long been the “gold standard” – the best of the best. Instilled by Walt Disney in 1955 at the opening of Disneyland, expanded over the decades since at locations around the world, and refined today as both an art and a science, the Disney approach to Guest experiences provides a wealth of information that can help your church not just “accommodate visitors,” but to expect Guests.

Solution: Think Church-wide in your Guest Experience, not just Sunday morning.

Exceeding expectations rather than simply satisfying them is the cornerstone of the Disney approach to customer service. Be Our Guest outlines proven Disney best practices and processes for generating customer loyalty. One visit to a Disney park reveals that their Guest Experience extends beyond the front gates, and into the heart and mind of every employee at every level.

Be Our Guest takes you behind the scenes to help you learn new and creative ways to create and deliver a world-class Guest Experience.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

“Be Our Guest” has been the invitation the Disney organization extends to people long before the song from Beauty and the Beast became a box office hit. It underscores an important element in the Disney vocabulary that customers are not referred to as customers or visitors, but rather as Guests. In the Disney nomenclature, the word “Guest” is capitalized and treated as a formal noun. It takes little effort to extend this line of thinking to your church:

What’s the difference between treating someone like a visitor, and treating someone like a Guest?

The obvious analogy is that we do things differently when we bring Guests into our home. We clean up the house. We dress up. We prepare something special to eat. We host them. We take care of their real needs. We even open the front door for them – every time.

Does your church expect Guests, or just accommodate visitors? How does Guest expectation extend beyond the front doors on a Sunday morning, but even into the office suite on a Thursday afternoon?

Realizing that God is bringing Guests to your church has to be the starting point, the foundation on which all else is built. Exceeding Guest expectations is the standard call to duty for every leader at every level and on every day.

At Disney, every leader at every level and on every day is a part of the Guest Services Team.

Exceeding Guest’s expectations is Disney’s service strategy, and paying attention to every detail is the tactic by which it is accomplished.

Disney’s Quality Service Compass encapsulates the organization-wide model that demonstrates Quality Service. It is the production process through which practical magic is created. In its essence, the compass can be used to create a shared vision of service that aligns the major elements that every organization shares – its people, infrastructure, and processes – in a cohesive, comprehensive effort to deliver that vision.

The Quality Service Compass has four main points centered on our service objective: to exceed Guest expectations.

  • Guestology – the art and science of knowing customers.
• Quality Standards – establishing the criteria for actions necessary to accomplish the service strategy, and the measures of Service Quality.
  • Delivery Systems – the systems that deliver service: employees, the setting, and processes.
  • Integration – combining and aligning delivery systems, creating a matrix to troubleshoot problems and benchmark practices.

– Disney Institute with Theodore Kinni, Be Our Guest

 

A NEXT STEP

At your next leadership team meeting, review the four points of Disney’s Quality Service Compass outlined above. Using the introductory questions suggested below, ask, “What is working within our Welcoming Teams?” “What is missing or confused?”

Guestology; Understand your Guest Profile

  • Do you know who your Guests are? Do you collect basic demographic information from Guests? What does a study of the last 12 months of this information reveal about your Guests?
  • Do you collect additional information about your Guests (through a website survey, etc.? Do you know about their attitudes, lifestyles, values, and opinions? What does a study of the last 12 months of this type of information reveal about your Guests?)

Integration: Extend your mission to the Guest Services teams

  • How can you extend your church’s mission so that your Guest Services teams understand how their role is in alignment?
  • How is your mission seen through your Guest Services teams by the Guests they serve?

Standards: Define Guest Service

  • Do you have service quality standards that ensure the consistent delivery of Guest services?
  • Do your Guest Services standards reflect the values of your church?
  • Do your Guest Service teams use the standards as filters through which they prioritize the actions that contribute to a memorable Guest Experience?

Delivery: Establish systems that welcome Guests

  • Your Guest Service Team Members are the first and most important part of your Guest Service delivery system. They are the heart and soul of your Guest Experience. How do you select, train and evaluate your team members? What steps have you taken to create and maintain
a culture of hospitality that nurtures your team members and encourages them to deliver a memorable Guest Experience?
  • How does your Environment (the physical and virtual resources of your organization) contribute to the delivery of a memorable Guest Experience? Do you regularly evaluate your setting?
  • Do you have a Process (the various series of operations used to deliver a memorable Guest Experience) that your Guest Service Teams understand and follow? Is this process regularly evaluated and improved as needed?

Finally, lead everyone in the meeting to identify one next step to take in THEIR ministry area or leadership to welcome Guests.


 

Taken from SUMS Remix 20-1, published August 2015.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
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Challenging and very good
 
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Great work!!!!
 
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Clarity Process

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9 Secrets to a Great Guest Experience

It’s time for the second session of the summer term of the 2016 GsD program, and just as in previous summer terms, we are conducting a reading survey course. Over the next few weeks, I will be listing a broad overview of some of the best literature in the field of customer service – and you will quickly see how it connects to Guest Experiences! It’s only an introduction to whet your appetite – the application to the world of Guest Experiences for churches will come in the second summer term!

2016 GsD Summer Term 1 Survey of Customer Experience Literature 201

Text: Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service

Author: Chip Bell

Synopsis: Chip Bell has written a delicious book that will make your mouth water! As you might guess from the title, Bell uses language and examples from the culinary world to focus on providing “that surprise that takes service from great to awesome.” Subtitled Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Serviceit delivers a delicious journey to innovative service.

According to Bell, there are nine “secret sauces” that form the basis for a customer experience that is served gourmet style:

Outline

> Amazement

Amazement can be defined as “a feeling of great surprise or wonder.” When Guests come to your church, they are probably expecting several things, one of which is to be made welcome. Because today’s church Guests live in a consumeristic world, they often expect more than just a normal greeting; anything less is a negative.

The secret sauce of Amazement takes the welcome concept to a whole new level. To differentiate yourself from your competition (which isn’t other churches, by the way), how can you amaze your Guest? What will you say, do, and/or provide that takes away your Guest’s breath, capturing their attention and ruining their appetite for your competition?

> Animation

Animation can be defined as “ the state of being full of life or vigor; liveliness.” Guests coming to your church will be frustrated by indifference. They spend enough of their day at work or other places encountering boring, comatose service. Surely it will be different at a church?

The secret sauce of Animation is present when your team members are alive and spirited. They anticipate Guests, eagerly welcome them, and leave the Guest’s energy level higher than they found it. What does your organization do to instill and inspire in your teams so that they are full of life?

> Abundance

Abundance can be defined as “a very large quantity of something.” Who isn’t surprised and delighted when receiving a little something “extra”?

The secret sauce of Abundance is demonstrated by the generous attitude your team presents to Guests. Almost magnetic, it attracts Guests because it conveys an unconditional positive regard. How are you developing your teams to go beyond the expected with a generous spirit and attitude?

> Ambiance

Ambiance can be defined as “the character and atmosphere of a place.” As humans, we are wired to favor symmetry. Our psyche reads dissonance in an experience long before our logical mind comprehends the reason. When you weave all five senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) together, you can create an experience that yields a story your Guests are eager to spread.

The secret sauce of Ambiance involves integrating all the sensory elements of a Guest Experience so they are congruent around a compelling story, theme, or vision. The secret is attention to minute details because the Guest’s brain can pick up any dissonant signal or symbol. What opportunities would you discover if you looked at your organization’s environment and experience with all five senses in mind?

> Adoration

Adoration can be defined as “deep love and respect.” There is no greater gift one can give a Guest than serving them with love. Love is also expressed in how your team members love the organization they represent.

The secret sauce of Adoration comes from ensuring that your front line team members know your organization’s benefits, not just the feature. It comes from investing in your team’s training. What can you do to make your Guests fall in love with the team member and the experience they are receiving?

> Allegiance

Allegiance can be defined as “loyalty of an individual to a commitment or cause.” It is created through the small acts of communication and caring that make Guests feel they can trust your team members to serve them well.

The secret sauce of Allegiance is demonstrated when your team members treat Guests like valued neighbors rather than strangers. It grows as a trusting relationship is developed, with a focus on the Guest, not the task at hand. How will your organization deliver an unexpected surprise to Guests, seeking to build trust with them in every encounter?

> Alliance

Alliance can be defined as “an association formed for mutual benefit, or a relationship based on an affinity in interests, nature, or qualities.” Guests care when they share, particularly if sharing is invited, not expected. Simplicity and sincerity are important to remember when helping the Guest move toward a position of helping you.

The secret sauce of Alliance reminds us that the partnership between team members and Guests always carries a co-created experience. Guest inclusion begins by being comfortable enough to ask the Guest for assistance. It also means being willing at times to sacrifice a little on efficiency or effectiveness for the commitment gained through participation. How are you involving your Guests in a partnership that creates and delivers an exceptional experience?

> Accessible

Accessible can be defined as “able to be reached or entered.” Recent research shows that being easy to do business with trumps every other feature of basic customer service. When a customer feels they can connect with you anytime, even big problems can be reduced to manageable proportions. Make access to stressless service a vital and obvious part of your Guest Experience recipe. After all, “stressed” spelled backwards is “desserts.”

The secret sauce of Accessible is best used by examining your Guest’s experience through their eyes. Often, that involves the conscious effort to see details that we are blind to. When was the last time you took an “empathy walk” in the shoes of your Guests, experiencing exactly what they do?

> Adventure

Adventure can be defined as “an unusual or exciting experience or activity.” Is the Guest Experience you provide more like a light or a candle? Lights are important because they provide us with the capacity to see or see better. Candles do they same thing, but with style. If you want a romantic dinner, you don’t just turn on the light.

The secret sauce of Adventure reminds us that a great Guest Experience is light-like, but an innovative Guest Experience is candle-like. People who deliver great Guest Experiences focus on being good at what they do; people who deliver innovative Guest Experiences seek to add imagination to what they do. What could your organization do to make your Guest’s experience unexpectedly unique?

About the author: Chip Bell, senior partner with the Chip Bell Group, is a renowned keynote speaker, consultant, trainer, and speaker to some of the largest and most well-known organizations around the world. A prolific author, he has written or co-written twenty books, many of which were bestsellers.

Additional Resources: Check out the book website for more information, including a video overview of the book as well as a free download of Chapter 1.


A Quick Comment: Just like a chef takes a basic sauce and makes it into the foundation of an exquisite meal, your organization can take the “secret sauces” Bell writes about in Sprinkles and deliver a “value-unique” service that creates an unexpected, enchanting experience for those you serve.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief culinary excursion into the 9 Secret Sauces from Chip Bell’s wonderful book Sprinkles. I’ve only briefly touched the surface of the great ideas you will find in it. Want to create a great Guest Experience recipe? Look no further than Sprinkles!

Sprinkles


Guestology – the art and science of knowing and understanding your guests – is a term originated by Bruce Laval of the Walt Disney Company. The use of GsD (Doctor of Guestology) is my tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment that organizations that really want to understand and deliver a WOW Guest Experience need to study the best practices and principles in use today, and then adapt them to the context of their own environment.

If you didn’t get a chance to participate in the 2013 GsD Summer Reading 101 classes, you can begin reading a 10-part session here.

For more reading in the area of Guest Experiences, check out my Essential Guest Experience Library. I am always adding new resources for your learning pleasure!

> Read more from Bob


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Adams

Bob Adams

Bob is an absolute fanatic about Guest Experiences, growing up watching his father serve customers at the gas station he built and operated for 44 years. Bob is continually connecting with corporate leaders in the customer experience world, learning and then translating practices for ChurchWorld. He writes, speaks, and consults on the topic frequently. Best of all, he is a front-line practitioner at Elevation Church, serving in various roles at the Uptown and Lake Norman Campuses. Vocationally, Bob has a dual role at Auxano, a clarity first consulting firm serving the church. As Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader he researches, edits, writes and publishes online content. As Guest Experiences Navigator, he leverages his passion, providing Guest Perspective Evaluations and Guest Experience Blueprints. Bob and his wife Anita have been married for 35 years. They have 4 children, 2 daughters-in-law, 1 son-in-law, and 4 grandchildren.

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Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 

Clarity Process

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4 Lessons Your Hospitality Teams Can Learn from a Hotel Concierge

A remarkable hotel concierge has an insatiable appetite to serve guests with professionalism and to deliver personalization through what can often be perceived as monotonous tasks.

Have you experienced the attentiveness and gracious care from a hotel concierge? They have an intuitive nature to know what you need and how to make things happen while balancing ten other things at the same time.

“It gives me peace to know the people around me have nothing to worry about.”

— Concierge at Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul

After learning from Julien TanguyHolly Stiel, and Marjorie Silverman, all of whom are concierge phenoms, I identified four lessons applicable to those leading hospitality teams and designing environments for guests. A remarkable concierge possesses:

1. Attributes – They have specific elements that lend toward being remarkable. Some of these elements include:

  • Approachability
  • Calmness
  • Perseverance
  • Creativity
  • Charisma
  • Competence
  • Generosity
  • Confidence
  • Resourcefulness
  • Humility
  • Passion
  • Courteousness
  • Strong memory

2. Commitment – They maintain a positive attitude and take it personally while getting the job done for each guest. They are in it to win whatever it is for the guest.

“Recognize what your guests want and need most and what your organization or church does best. Put concentration on where those two intersect.”

3. Capacity – They wear many hats and still deliver a personal and remarkable experience for each guest. You feel like they are taking care of just you when they are really taking care of a number of people.

4. Intuition – They perform a type of triage for the guest. They are able to sense what is needed, how to respond, and then figure out how to get it done. Quickly.

“If you’re not serving the guest, your job is to be serving someone who is.”

— Jan Carlzon
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Young

Jason Young

I love growing leaders, building volunteer teams, designing guest experiences and being strategic about how they intersect. I am the Director of Guest Services for North Point Ministries. You can also find me helping organizations and churches. I have worked with Ford, LifeChurch.tv, LifeWay, Growing Leaders, PossibleNOW, The Fellowship, WinShape, Loganville Christian Academy, First Baptist Church Woodstock, Chick-fil-A, Catalyst and others. I have fun reading, watching movies, hiking, and visiting Disney World. I live in Atlanta, GA.

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Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 

Clarity Process

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What Would It Take to Elevate the Dignity of Each Guest in Your Church?

The guest that enters our church should feel welcomed, comfortable, and honored.

I am obsessed with exploring the answer to one question: What would it take to elevate the dignity of each guest in our church? 

I attended a Guest Services Conference this week, and also had the opportunity to speak during a session to the group of influencers. I asked everyone one question, “What would it take to elevate the dignity of each guest in our churches?” To better set the stage, we watched this funny video of Target lady from SNL on how not to elevate the dignity of each guest.

I believe the answer to the above question is discovered when we unearth and respond to eight subsequent questions.

Question 1: Do we allow our interactions with a team member and guest to remain active in front of the backdrop of hospitality?

From a sociological perspective, hospitality was the bedrock of the Middle Eastern culture because only by caring for others could societies, or even individuals, guarantee their survival.The harsh, arid climate, coupled with the nomadic lifestyle of the region’s early residents, made kindness towards guests an imperative. To deny a traveler hospitality – whether it be someone familiar to you or someone completely unknown – was to deny them life. Like any society, a mutual understanding arose that those who were in need could find relief at any house, and would repay the kindness whenever a stranger or guest came knocking at their door. Hospitality found its cultural staying power in the exchange of mutual survival, the willingness to see the value in another life because your life is bound to it, even if not obviously so.

From a theological perspective, the first acts of hospitality were not from human to human – they were from God to man via creation and His grace in the aftermath of the Fall. The specificity of the universe, its fine-tuning and precision, are the first and most excellent examples of creating an environment for guests that makes them feel at home and frees them to interact with God. In the Fall, we see God’s graciousness (which is the root of all hospitality – the extension of grace to the weak) in the fact that he provided clothes to cover their nakedness and a closing off of the Tree of Life to ensure that mankind wouldn’t die in sin. The implications of both of these acts formed a clear through-line for Semitic culture and history: human life is precious, and must be cared for and shown grace. This belief was codified in the Mosaic Law with its statutes on how to treat strangers and sojourners among the Nation of Israel.

Romans 12:13…’practice hospitality’ is included in the list of qualities of a Christ follower. These two words mean one who goes after someone unfamiliar with an environment. You pursue them as if you were pursuing a criminal or enemy. However, you are doing it because you have a love for the stranger.”

Question 2: Are the feelings we have for a guest coming in reflected in how they feel about us when they leave?

“Yes. The Image of God is not selective; it does not appear in some people and disappear in others. All human beings bear the Image and thus have the ability to be moved by displays of the Image in another person. Human beings are wired for goodness—and the best way to draw goodness out is pour goodness in. We see this image most fully in the person of Jesus Christ and in his interactions during his ministry. If you consider how Jesus treated the marginalized, sick, and lost, you see he brought people to faith not by doctrinal savvy but by touch, compassion, and kindness. Jesus brought out the good in people by extending goodness to them—he resurrected the image of God by deliberately appealing to it in his work.”

Question 3: Does our church culture provide freedom for team members to make quick decisions that create a better experience for the guest?

“Is caring for people assigned to a specific team (i.e., Guest Services) or is it the responsibility of everyone regardless of an ‘official’ role – staff and volunteers. The church that has the guest as the priority in its DNA empowers volunteers to make quick decisions to care for the guest. This is seen and felt from the top down.

Think of a something being widespread versus isolated. If something is widespread, everyone in the midst feels it. When something is isolated, only a few are involved and feel the impact.”

Question 4: Do we empathetically prioritize the guest enough to naturally go the second and third mile?

“Do we prioritize the guest so much that it becomes our DNA to never think of going the extra mile as the exception? Rather, we gladly go as many miles as it takes to deliver a feeling of comfort and care. This becomes the expectation and norm.

Our view of three words influence our response to this question:

1. Hospitality – focus is on the guest and the feeling being delivered

2. Service – focus is only on the actions

3. Entertain – focus is on you, the experience provider”

Question 5: Do we break the big picture down into scenes that are more manageable and yield a better guest experience?

“Designing an end-to-end experience can be overwhelming. Writers, directors, and producers, don’t write and shoot everything in one scene. They break it down into manageable and individual scenes and then thread them together. Start small and then thread it together. Your experience will be better!”

Question 6: Do we discipline ourselves and help our team members to be fully present?

“Jesus came into a house. Martha was busy doing and Mary was fully present with the person who mattered. One was caught up in doing everything but hosting the person. Jesus said what Mary was doing was better.

When we choose to be fully present, we are telling the guest that we value them above everything, even all that must get done.”

Question 7: Do we lead in such a way that our team members feel empowered to show care in ways that the guest has a story to tell later?

“Every guest drives on our properties and walks into our buildings with a story that involves a number of characters, mountaintop moments, tragedies, and baggage. Perhaps they have even had a bad church experience in their past. When we posture ourselves to be sensitive to the person driving on our property or walking in our building, we are better prepared to listen and respond.

The main person in the story is not the church. It is not the team member. It is the guest and they should feel that from us. We can influence their experience with us so that they have a story to tell later. We are influencing environments where life change happens.”

Question 8: Do we focus on brokering an experience for the guest in order to protect them?  

“A bodyguard shields the person they are responsible for guarding. We are trusted with protecting each guest from any feeling that might be a distraction in their experience with us. We have the opportunity to replace an insecurity or negative emotion they have with a positive emotion.”

> Read more from Jason.


Want to know more about Guest Experiences in your church? Start a conversation with our team. We’re glad to offer our input. Your vision is at stake, so let’s talk.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Young

Jason Young

I love growing leaders, building volunteer teams, designing guest experiences and being strategic about how they intersect. I am the Director of Guest Services for North Point Ministries. You can also find me helping organizations and churches. I have worked with Ford, LifeChurch.tv, LifeWay, Growing Leaders, PossibleNOW, The Fellowship, WinShape, Loganville Christian Academy, First Baptist Church Woodstock, Chick-fil-A, Catalyst and others. I have fun reading, watching movies, hiking, and visiting Disney World. I live in Atlanta, GA.

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Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 

Clarity Process

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If Guest Experience Were a Hymn

Hymn singing is a ritual in just about every religion on the planet.  It helps a collection of people share a common expression of belief in a manner that is joyful or celebrative.

John Wesley, with his brother Charles, founded what is now the Methodist Church.  In his 1761 book, Select Hymns, he wrote the “Directions for Singing” currently found in the front of most Methodist hymnals. If you substituted the word “Guest Experience” for “singing,” Wesley’s directions would also provide powerful tenants for delivering a remarkable Guest Experience.  And, while churches may refer to their constituents as parishioners, members, or “the congregation,” always remember on the other side of the worshiper’s eyes is the perspective of a customer.

“Sing lustily and with good courageBeware of singing as if you were half dead or half asleep.”  Guests abhor handing their hard-earned funds or limited time to a team member who acts completely indifferent.  When they witness front line members “taking their own sweet time” to respond to a request, it makes them search for other service providers (including churches) who serve “lustily and with good courage.”

“Sing modestly…that you may not destroy the harmony but unite your voices together.”  Remarkable Guest Experiences require teamwork.  If the housekeeper is slow getting hotel rooms ready, the front desk clerks continues to disappoint the guest with “Your room is not quite ready.”  The waiter looks foolish if the chef failed to prepare the meal as described.  In the same way, if the minister makes a promise the staff cannot keep, the disharmony leaves customers disappointed.

“Sing all…let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you.”  Great Guest Experiences are about good closure.  It means ensuring theGuests’ real need is met, not just their request.  It involves ensuring the Guest is pleased with the outcome, not just satisfied with the effort.  And, it takes going the extra mile even when we are tired and ready to go home.

“Above all, sing spiritually.  Aim at pleasing God more than yourself…so the Lord will approve and reward you…” While a religious song has a spiritual goal, the end game for Guest Experience is somewhat similar.  It is not about pleasing yourself; it is about pleasing your those you serve.  Service processes should be designed for the Guest, not for internal convenience.   And, making Guests happy yields the rewards of growth and the pleasure of knowing your team made a difference.

If your Guest Experience were a hymn, would it elevate the spirits of your Guests?  Would it unite the passions of those who “sing” with you?

> Read more from Chip.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chip Bell

Chip Bell

Chip R. Bell is the author of several best-selling books including his newest: Sprinkles: Creating Awesome Experiences Through Innovative Service. He can be reached at www.chipbell.com.

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Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Guests

If you attend a church regularly, you’ve probably noticed the phenomenon. A guest shows up for a worship service, but he or she never returns. It is, unfortunately, a common issue in many churches.

I did a Twitter poll to ask these first-time guests why they chose not to return to a particular church. While some of the responses were anticipated, I admit being a bit surprised with some of them.

Though my poll is not scientific, it is nevertheless fascinating. Here are the top ten responses in order of frequency.

  1. Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.
  2. Unfriendly church members. This response was anticipated. But the surprise was the number of respondents who included non-genuine friendliness in their answers. In other words, the guests perceived some of the church members were faking it.
  3. Unsafe and unclean children’s area. This response generated the greatest emotional reactions. If your church does not give a high priority to children, don’t expect young families to attend.
  4. No place to get information. If your church does not have a clear and obvious place to get information, you probably have lowered the chances of a return visit by half. There should also be someone to greet and assist guests at that information center as well.
  5. Bad church website. Most of the church guests went to the church website before they attended a worship service. Even if they attended the service after visiting a bad website, they attended with a prejudicial perspective. The two indispensable items guests want on a website are address and times of service. It’s just that basic.
  6. Poor signage. If you have been attending a church for a few weeks, you forget all about the signage. You don’t need it any more. But guests do. And they are frustrated when it’s not there.
  7. Insider church language. Most of the respondents were not referring to theological language as much as language that only the members know. My favorite example was: “The WMU will meet in the CLC in the room where the GAs usually meet.”
  8. Boring or bad service. My surprise was not the presence of this item. The surprise was that it was not ranked higher.
  9. Members telling guests that they were in their seat or pew. Yes, this obviously still takes place in some churches.
  10. Dirty facilities. Some of the comments: “Didn’t look like it had been cleaned in a week.” “No trash cans anywhere.” Restrooms were worse than a bad truck stop.” “Pews had more stains than a Tide commercial.”

There you have it. The top ten reasons first-time guests said they did not return to a church. I can’t wait to hear from you readers. You always have such good additions and insights.

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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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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

JK — 01/17/16 12:52 am

I feel that church has become a production. Like there is a big show in town and all of the IN crowd goes.

Ella — 01/12/16 8:12 am

Julie, I wouldn't think everyone was friendly to your mother because she gives a lot of money.. Most people really have no idea what other members give.. If I had to guess, I would say it's because she has been there all those years and everyone knows her, they have built relationships.. That's the entire reason to be in church.. So we can build relationships to help, encourage, and love one another... Tithe is very important to a church and to Christ.. But not the most important... I'm sure if you get involved, and be friendly towards others, you to will receive friendship and community with others...

Tim — 08/12/15 2:14 pm

I am not surprised with many of these answers. I am not sure how a meet and greet woild cause a person to. leave. I seriously doubt this poll was taken anywhere outside the US. I have been to a church that was a an abandoned warehouse with no windows in the middle of the summer with no AC. I enjoyed it because the word was taught and God was there. Following Christ is selfless not selfish and how can it make me comfortable. I understand to use discernment for new and nonbelievers. Most people that have spoken with that say the church hurt them usually are self perceived hurts. Even so if we are hurt who are we going for ourselves, our friends, or God? God bless.

Mike French — 08/11/15 4:52 pm

My pastor passed this onto to his leaders. I read the list with interest. How interesting that something like the following did not make the list of why first time guests leave: “I really felt convicted by the preaching about sin, coming judgment and hell. It was almost like the preacher was speaking directly to me. Made me so mad, I almost ran out of there!” Hmmm. Ray Comfort writes, “John Wesley told his trainee evangelists that, when they preached, people should either get angry or they should get converted. No doubt he wasn’t speaking about the “love, joy, peace Gospel.” Wesley preached sin, righteousness, holiness, judgment, and hell.” Could this be why my objection didn’t make the list? Because in most churches today, liberalism has watered down the gospel like it has dumbed down our kids in schools and handcuffed our law enforcement people and created a generation of career politicians more interested in power and perks than in public service? Mike

RW — 08/11/15 11:59 am

In response to HJ: In reference to the cliquishness and impenetrable groups.. I understand your feelings. I've been on the outside looking in and I've been hurt - even by a sibling who was deep in some of these groups - and I felt crushed. On the other hand, a few years later (and not at all that it was right), I experienced being on the inside of such a group. Some of these people have been so hurt and rejected by their own family that the people they meet within the church body become their family. They've had the same experiences with pain and terrible circumstances. They come from abusive homes, or have lost children, or, heaven forbid, have been hurt at other churches. They gravitate toward one another and find comfort and healing as they grow in Christ. They have bonded in grief or some mutual understanding. I say some, because I've seen other groups just be exclusive for no good reason. But some of us just become oblivious - which, you are right, is not godly - but it isn't meant to be hurtful. It just means we have adopted one another as family and we treat each other as such no matter the setting. If some knew the hurt they caused they would be deeply grieved. I hopes this offers a different perspective on an issue that has caused so many to be hurt.

HJ — 08/11/15 8:22 am

I was a member at a church for over 5 years. I answered God's call to serve in several areas. It took some time, but I came to realize that most of the long time members~pastor's wife being one of them~ could not take my honesty, my questioning of what I saw as blatant hypocrisies. When my mother visited, she elected not to attend Sunday School with me so my daughter brought her to the service. She waited for me in the foyer of the sanctuary~NOT ONE of those oh so godly people acknowledged her. She waited for me for at least 10 minutes. People came and went~including the pastor's wife~and not a word. It was a few months later that I left that place. The pastor contacted me to talk about it, He did not like what I had to say about "his" church. The meet and great is joke as the people stay in their spot and great the people they sit with every Sunday. I tried at least 3 other churches only to see the same thing. Tithes are pushed, cliches are deep and unpenetrable. I love Jesus above all else. My spirit got crushed within the corporate church structure. I do not need them for their brand of worship. I need Jesus. The tithes I gave to the church go directly to charities in my area in the form of food for the food bank, the needs of the homeless~clothing, food~veteran groups.

Linda — 08/04/15 4:48 am

How long does it take not to be a newbie and be included. Many members have been there for years doing life together, raised their children together, and never reach out of their group (cliques) to include others on a regular basis. You see them out during the week together or hear theirs stories on Sunday morning about the good time they had with... while out to dinner this past week. You can even be a member of their Sunday School class.

JV — 08/03/15 12:36 pm

Would the church in Carrollton happen to be Covenant? I live in DFW.

Julie — 08/03/15 9:20 am

Well the church I used to go to in Carrollton Tx was a lot more friendlier. Maybe we need to learn from them, the one that I'm going to now is the SA and its in Manchester CT. The people rarely say Hi to me, but they greet my mom, because she has been a member for the past 30 yrs, and also because she give's a lot of money to the church. It seems they're so focused on tithes, which really turns me off, I would have to say they would get more people giving if they just say give what you can and nothing more, instead of 10 minute sermons on why tithes are so important. Also, put the collection into drop boxes or buckets, that is what my other church did in Tx and they would get thousands of dollars, of course it was a mega church, but that's not the point, the people were giving because they didn't feel like they were going to be punished if they didn't t give. It would also be nice to here a fire and brimstone sermon but I don't think I will ever hear one coming from the SA, or in other churches as well.

Darla — 06/17/15 3:29 pm

Recently I visited a Church and I was #1 put off by the timing of the meet and greet. 10 minutes after the Pastor had begun speaking he stopped for the m & g, which totally throwed the focus off from the sermon. Which made me think "wow" could that not have been done at the beginning or end. And #2 at no time during the sermon was a biblical passage given to back up what the Pastor referred to in his comments. I didn't go back as I didn't feel God's presence guiding that church.

Richard Parr — 05/14/15 8:22 pm

I have found The Salvation Army to be a friendly all including Church

Cheryl — 04/18/15 9:46 am

My husband and I are seeking a new church because we've recently moved. We've been shocked and dismayed to find so many unfriendly , closed congregations and pastors. We're servants who want to plug in and work alongside fellow believers. However, so far we've not found one church where the pastor is a humble leader and the members are friendly, willing servants. We're not new believers. We're seminary trained with hearts for the lost. Willing, able and called. So far the Lord has not directed us to the church of His choice. It's no wonder America is in the shape it's in when our churches are closed social groups, not open, welcoming , loving brides of Christ.

Anne — 04/17/15 4:54 pm

I've been in my Methodist church for over 30 years, but I still HATE the greeting time. I'm shy and dont like shaking hands with people I don't know, especially people who have just coughed or sneezed into their hand - gross! Even worse is being forced to say something like "peace be unto you" (which I would NEVER say in my daily life), it seems pompous, highly unnatural and pointless. I really wish they would stop this. But I stay there for other reasons.

Wayne Irons — 04/17/15 4:17 pm

I think if you are drawn to God, you will not care about what church you go to as long as you are getting fed the true word of God. Most importantly is to go to church and get the biblical teaching and biblical worship that you seek.Another reason being that maybe you really don't want to go to church to begin with and if that is so, you will look for, and find any excuse you can muster up to not go anymore. If I am seeking a new church, I would look for one that teaches the true word of God, which can only be found in the holy Bible. And if that church does not beleive in Salvation through Jesus Christs' death on the cross, I would walk out immediately.

Phylissis Ransom — 04/17/15 12:13 pm

If you are afraid of people , how do you come out of the house? Church is a place where friendliness and kindness starts. When you attend any place only once, you don't get the full benefit Church hopping , attending a different church every Sunday ? You don't get to know people. I think that commitment is the problem.

Sara Tonin — 04/17/15 10:20 am

We drive 20 miles and pass by numerous churches on the way to our church. It isn't perfect, but at least it is very intentional about making guests feel safe, comfortable, and welcome. We do have a brief 'greeting time' that quickly leads into a worship music set. Rather than just saying "Stand and greet the people around you" the host puts people at ease by making it a bit more fun. (and less intimidating) They may reference a personal memory or non-controversial topic and say something like; "Tell your neighbor who your favorite cartoon character is." or "Tell someone what was your best-ever bowling score." The music begins before anyone has time to be uncomfortable or tell their life story. Works well for us.

Karen — 04/16/15 4:01 pm

My neighbor was a pastor, and now his son is. When they see me passing by, they either stare or look the other way. The ex pastors wife only speaks to me when I come into where she works. She takes care of the dining room, so it is her job to speak to others about drink refills, etc. She also asks me questions about things that are none of her business, since she ignores me the rest of the time. I bet if I did show up at their Church, I would not to welcome. I wouldn't go for that reason. This Church is walking distance from my house, but I would go 10 miles away to Church, before I would go to theirs.

Ladybug — 04/16/15 11:34 am

Starting and ending late. If the service starts at 10, make sure it does... And don't run over!

Cathy — 03/11/15 1:55 am

I recently left the church where I had attended for 10 years & have been looking for another church home. I visited several in cities that were a distance away- 35 minutes, 1 hr & 1.5 hrs. I could see myself serving in any of those churches, but would like some place closer. I tried several in the town where I live, but no luck so far. One service was supposed to start at 10, but didn't start til 10:20 & the "announcements" took up- no exaggeration- 30+ minutes! THEN they called a guy up to "pray over the offering" He proceeded to whip the congregation into being cheerful givers: "What time is it saints?" [mumble, mumble] "I said, what time is it?" "HAPPY TIME!"- this went on for 15 minutes. ONE hour after their supposed start time, they actually began praise & worship! Another church I went to locally was ok, but the morning I visited there, near the end of the sermon, the pastor announced in his sermon, "I'm not one of those educated preachers! I'm just a simple man with a simple message; I don't get into the Old Testament & all the feast days & all that....I like to stick with the gospels." Nothing wrong with the Gospels, but it's like going to Golden Corral & only eating at the taco bar...good stuff but you're missing out on so much! Needless to say, that was my confirmation to move on... I'm currently driving 1.5 hrs on Sunday nights to attend an excellent church in Charlotte.

Jean — 03/09/15 4:00 pm

I have an autoimmune disorder. It would be nice if the 'meet & greet' didn't include "Shake the hand of 10 people" Basically it all seems so artificial anyway. Once you sit down can you remember that person's name, color of their eyes, anything they said? My church has an information area with a live person behind the counter. However, the person behind the counter is clueless as to what is happening at the church, which groups they have or where they meet. Basically that person can't answer any questions. The church also has a website. It informs you when the services are, a few of the groups that are available but very little information about what the groups entail or who to contact for each group. There isn't a calendar of events. They are very impressed with themselves since they have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Defeats the purpose if it's all about past events. The rest of the top 10 - luckily don't fit the church I attend.

ThirdChord — 03/09/15 2:14 pm

Being a follower of Jesus Christ sets one free from the shackles of this world. We are in the process of renewing our mind and conforming to His image. Do we get it right all the time? - NO. It's not the building, songs, seating, etc. WE are the church. Is there a perfect place, time or method to worship our God who saved us? Every moment we breathe would probably be the ideal. I believe it will be that way in heaven. Until that time comes for me, I will strive to be more like Jesus and treat others the way I want to be treated.

justcoco — 03/08/15 11:49 am

You show up at church with someone in a wheelchair, of course you need a couple seats on the end, they just look at you. You end up standing til someone, usher, finally finds you to help. The other is, you find a seat, wheelchair in isle and are told to move. Or after the sermon, the pastor starts down your isle, see a wheelchair...backs up and exits a different way. Yes these things have happened.

Dave Wells — 03/06/15 11:39 am

I'm not gonna buy the hype that somehow we can better market the church if take a survey and then address the top-ten issues. The reality is that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9); in other words we will fabricate excuses to cover the truth. All these reasons are subterfuge for the one true reason: they shun the, "Light for fear that (their) deeds will be exposed." (John 3:20b). Not one of these folks mentioned an improper presentation of the Word of God. The Good News is that we know the #1 reason why 'most' people reject a church and the best way to address this problem is to lovingly expose and confront it. Oh people will still walk out, but at least they'll know why they're leaving, rather than buying into their own lies.

Sarah — 03/06/15 10:31 am

My first Sunday visiting a church the pastor used every racial epithet imaginable in his sermon. He was trying to make a point and there was some context for the slurs. But, it was shocking to hear from the pulpit words that would've made me cover my children's ears if they'd be sitting with me. My take-away: this pastor knew, when preparing his sermon, that not one person of color would be sitting in his pews; he was absolutely assured there would be no members or visitors he needed to be sensitive towards. When I met him in the shake-hands-line after the sermon I opened my mouth to protest and he physically used my hand to pull me past him so that I could not stop to talk (he had made eye-contact during the sermon and seen my shocked face). Incidentally, the church had the saddest children's program (cold, dark basement room with ONE class for K-12 consisting of about five kids). There was zero signage and when I asked someone where the kid's program was they said they'd been attending for years but had no idea where the room was. Then, at the coffee hour I was handed one dixie cup of red kool-aid for myself and my two kids to share with a stern warning not to spill it on their new carpet. Needless to say, that was our first and last visit. I left wondering how this private, rich, old white people's club possibly earned the name "church" on their sign out front. I know this is an extreme case but I've never forgotten it. I live in a pretty liberal northern town with a big university and I just hadn't imagined this kind of behavior went on in my own backyard.

Ralph Jones — 03/06/15 8:20 am

I am amazed! All of this complaining about God's people seeking to be friendly and show love by greeting one another (even if not always done to your expectations) is the height of consumeristic, "what about me?" faux Christianity. Sure God's people don't always get it right, but these are petty complaints. If these were stated by unbelievers it might be one thing, but it seems to me, that almost every post is by someone with a great deal of church experience. Let's go to church to worship God, learn and love one another. Then go into the world to love and make disciples. Come on people show some grace and be a light of love!

Shelly — 03/06/15 6:42 am

Many of these comments focus on the church as family and body of believers which means they should be less selfish and focus more on Christ. Agreed, but only under the premiss that visitors are already Christians. Many people visiting churches are entirely new to this idea of church or religion in general. They are there to see what church can give them! So stop and think of what it would be like to go into a Jewish temple for the first time, would you have any clue?

Jeanie Reavis — 03/05/15 6:25 pm

I think my church does a fantastic job of welcoming new people. Unfortunately, the #1 complaint, the stand up and greet, is done every week at my church. I also don't like it as I think that it is awkward and uncomfortable. I have also heard a complaint that it is a way to spread germs during flu season. This is one thing that I wish my church would do away with.

Bruce — 03/05/15 4:16 pm

the scripture says no man can come to God unless the Spirit draws him, if the pastor and church have not put in the time for prayer and devotions during the week it's doubtful the Lord shows up on Sunday, we have to have a atmosphere that is pleasing to God and lift up weary souls with heart felt worship along with anointed preaching, Jesus said if I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me, #1 Spirit filled worship & preaching, welcoming saints and love enough for the work you are doing to make sure the facilities are clean, if these things are provided then it's on them, I've never seen God not show up if we take care of our end

Kitty — 03/05/15 1:55 pm

I decided to stop going to a certain church when they started saying the babies go to hell and that my gay friend was going to go to hell. I also didn't appericate it when they told me that girls are ment to be quiet at all times and can't be preachers.

sk — 03/05/15 9:43 am

Didn't see this reason -- but for what it's worth - my #1 reason not to return to a church: Exceedingly loud happy/clappy, 7-11, karaoke, words on a screen with no score music. Followed closely by #2, the exceedingly loud, performance oriented praise band. (I have been a very sad SBC person for about 25 yrs now). Seems that Baptist churches that really worship are very few and very far between. I know of one that is about 60 miles from where I live and there are dozens of the other kind all around me. :-(

Matthew — 03/03/15 7:21 am

You can't win with #1...if you don't greet people then you are either mean or stuck up...if you do greet them...then you are fake or make them feel uncomfortable.. I Am A Sinner...I go to church to worship the Lord and no other reason!

Joel — 03/01/15 11:01 am

As a former Pastor, I have seen all of these act as a deterrent to guests returning. As a Church attender now on the other side of the pulpit, the biggest deterrent I have noticed is that most people belonging to any given congregation, are not really interested in guests in the first place. They are typically satisfied if new people come and begin to attend on a regular basis but on a deep level it really doesn't matter to them if guests come and go as long as they get what they want. I have also seen this same attitude shining through in many of the self-absorbed comments in this string.

Amber — 02/28/15 9:16 am

My dad being a pastor, I have been going to church my entire life. I understand the importance of church. I also understand that "The Church" Christ talks about is a body of people, not a building or an institution. I've had 2 major cross-state moves in the last 2 yrs. All that being said, I need a period of time to "fade into the background" of a church before I feel comfortable getting involved. It's some sort of a social anxiety, not because I'm picky or have unrealistic expectations. I feel nauseous and anxious and wish I could hide during Meet and Great time. It also reminds me how lonely I am and my unmet need for belonging. Building relationships takes time. If the process goes too fast, then I get very overwhelmed and, right or wrong, my pattern has been to stop attending. Recently I started going to a new church with a coworker and that has made a huge difference. I'm not asking that churches cater to people like me. Instead, maybe be less hard on us. I hope this helps for those who struggle to understand why the meet and great can be such a big issue.

shawn — 02/22/15 5:31 pm

I agree with several of these comments..unfortunately though many people look for a church that can give them something. Well if your view of a church is based on the building, and what the people in it can do for you...already you're bound to fail at finding a home church. 1 example given was not satisfactory child center. Maybe that's something you could do..be the change..there are countless studies based on follow the leader.. 1 person stand in a line, you don't even have to know what it's for, eventually others join..more and more.. if you make changes others like, more will join and help and before you know it,a full children's ministry has taken off. A church is only as strong or broken as all it's members together..because that's all the church really is..not a building you sit at for 2 hours 1 day a week before a race or football game.

birdieinacoffeecup — 02/09/15 10:00 am

I feel like many of these comments are just excuses being made and people defending their preferences. I agree that not every church is going to be the same, but every church should make their number one priority the furthering of the gospel! if that means you need to update your website, tidy up (or clean out!) your facility, or make some changes to the order of service, than so be it. we should be making the gospel as easily accessible to those outside of Christ as we possibly can! the gospel is more important than any of those silly and small things, and God help us if we allow them to get in the way of the only thing that really matters- showing His glory.

Doug — 02/01/15 5:48 pm

The reason for church is to worship God and have fellowship TOGETHER. Im shy when i don't know people, but I'd much rather there very a meet and greet and people being really friendly and welcoming than being ignored and no one bothered about me being there! You can worship God anytime on your own, church is about being a family.

Teresa Radwan — 01/30/15 4:58 pm

The last church that I attended, I sat quietly observing. The Minister walked over and quietly told me that I was pious. I was offended by this remark from a man I had just met. There was a prayer service for some of the people in the church, they along with others much more intimate with the church surrounded each other, making us feel even more left out, then a second plate was placed at the doors as you walked out held by parishioners, making anyone that did not contribute feel terrible.I was smirked at when I passed without contributing. never again will I visit that church.

Rico — 01/29/15 12:01 pm

"The guests perceived some of the church members were faking it." Some of that is due to personality types. I'd imagine most existing members who are introverts would come across as "faking" it when greeting guests, because they probably are faking it to a degree. Doesn't mean they're not sincere, they're just uncomfortable as well. "Boring or bad service." IOW, not entertaining enough. Not sure if that's necessarily a bad thing.

Jillian — 01/28/15 1:07 pm

I'm really trying to understand the widespread opposition to greeting each other. I am a Catholic and we have a time in the mass where we wish each other peace - no personal information, just peace. Regardless, can people honestly say they come to the house of the Lord and are surrounded by their brothers and sisters and take offense or find it wrong to greet each other in His house? Awkward or shy or whatever it is called, it seems like that would be a time to be able to get past that and at least say hello.

Emalyn — 01/27/15 9:53 pm

A lot of comments were criticizing types of worship that they didn't like. Remember that different churches meet the needs of different people. You might like hymns, but someone else likes loud praise team songs. You might like in-depth sermons and others might like something lighter. Those differences were not what this article was about. People of various denominations looking for various worship experiences had ten similar things to say about looking for a church. Wandering into a tongues-filled church is far different than wandering into a KJV 1611 church then being disappointed. ALL churches should work on having clean and safe areas for children. My husband and I actually changed churches before we had children because our home church nursery was far from being clean and safe. ALL churches should work to have clear information about service times and directions on their websites/signs. ALL churches should encourage their members to be genuinely friendly. These are things that should be found regardless of one's personal taste in what they want from a church. It would be nice if websites had a sort of "what to expect" page for visitors as far as when services start, what they usually consist of, how children are handled, what to expect for communion or other rituals. This would make people feel welcomed. It's just like when you have someone in your home. You tell them where the bathroom is. You show them where to put their purse so your pet doesn't get into it. You point out drinkware and beverages. I think that many churches EXPECT that people will know what to do, but it can be very confusing going to a new church, even of the same denomination. Not knowing what to do can make people very uncomfortable. There's no reason not to make every effort to make everyone feel comfortable in church. And if a church does ALL it can and a person doesn't come back, it's not that the person is somehow unloving towards God. It could just be that the church wasn't what the person was looking for. This article was pointing out ways that churches could do better. I would like to comment about the whole "this is my pew" problem. A lot of schools have gone to randomly assigning seating from day to day in the lunchroom. This breaks up cliques and helps everyone feel included. Kids get to meet different kids than they might if they just sat at the same table all the time. Just think how it would be at church if everyone was encouraged to rotate where they sat and to never sit in the same pew in the same month. Talk about shaking things up!!

Beth — 01/27/15 7:04 pm

A year ago in December we moved from Texas to Montana. At a Christmas Eve service we were told we were in the way and had to move to a back wall and stand the entire service. As we have met new people I always ask what church they go to. This would be a great opportunity for someone to invite us to their church, but no one ever has. We were very active in our church for over 30 years. It is hard being an outsider and being the new person. But I will get there.

Barbara Johnson — 01/27/15 3:37 pm

I have a lot to say but I will try to condense it because when its long nobody reads it all. I have traveled around the world with my Air Force husband and have attended many churches. The main reason I selected a church to attend was because I felt God had led me there and I heard the Word preached by a man of God. Some people are not looking for the right thing so they are not going to stay at any church. I go to a wonderful church where all people are treated equally and guest are our first priority. LOVE is what people are looking for whether they know it or not and when a church is built on the love of God LOVE will surround them and draw them in its circle. The best way to find the church you are looking for you need to pray about it and go to more than one or two churches to find where God wants you to serve. God love you and wants you to be a happy Christian. .

Ken — 01/27/15 12:30 pm

Personally, I am surprised at all the comments about the "meet and greet" or as I call it the "boy howdy!" A nicer welcome approach is to have a space dedicated for welcoming and visiting prior to running to get your "pew". Allow time between services for "fellowship". With churches looking more like concert halls or arenas, how many people do you meet at a concert or sporting event? MANY "visitors" check out a church first by website. Have REAL photos of your church not stock online media. Have a map of your facilities not just how to find the building. Think about having greeters DURING services/classes so that late-comer visitors don't have to take a self-guided tour. AND definitely have your nursery/preschool workers arrive early BEFORE families arrive. Horrible for someone to bring a child to a classroom where there is no teacher or person to receive a child!

Cathy Visitor — 01/27/15 12:26 pm

I absolutely, positively hate #1, and the day I find a church that doesn't practice this is the day I have finally found a new church home. It is uncomfortable and awkward especially as new person. Although I will say, as a new person, it is fascinating to see who has lots of people flock to them and who are greeted as an after thought. It is especially enlightening to see what the minister does. Regardless, I wish this was a tradition that would just stop. Visit each other before or after service.

Jason Moore — 01/27/15 9:51 am

Hi Thom. Great post! I have found many of the same things in my work. I do a lot of secret worshiping, and I'm training secret worshipers as well. Check out this post I did a few years ago. Almost identical findings. http://midnightoilproductions.com/2012/01/visitor_questions/ I'm curious, is your twitter poll posted somewhere? I'd love to see the responses.

kneemarcher777 — 01/27/15 8:23 am

Come let us reason together sayth the Lord.

Adrian de Lange — 01/27/15 7:41 am

In regard to #1: My experience has been that whether people are friendly or not, I don't experience it as a meaningful greeting/welcome because I can't get past the thought that if people really wanted to greet me, they would have done it on their own time and on their own terms. Greeting one another also takes the initiative away from people who otherwise would greet others on their own. This is a very different thing than the historic "The Lord be with you // And with you(r Spirit)".

Tommy Howell — 01/26/15 9:32 pm

I've seen number 1 in a couple of different surveys now, and I still find it difficult to understand. I've always tried to put myself in others shoes when I ponder these kinds of things, and I can honestly say that, if I visit anywhere (church included), I do not mind a "meet & greet" time at all. Personal friends whom I have asked about this issue feel the same way I do. My guess would be that it may have something to do with what part of the country you live in.

Jason — 01/26/15 4:02 pm

I wonder what a surgery would look like if people were asked to give reasons they actually stayed at the church they attend? Put a positive spin on it and see what the outcome would be. Just a thought.

Beth Christian — 01/26/15 3:56 pm

I agree with the first two reasons. I am a pastors wife but am kind of socially awkward ,so when "forced" to meet and greet I'm uncomfortable, may just be the rebel in me. I would rather greet someone on my own. I've been to many churches that no one speaks to you. My children ages 25 and 30 have a very hard time finding a church that has people that are their age, especially singles. Sad really. Bottom line is there are no perfect churches you have to find one that is the closest to fitting your needs and has good sound Biblical doctrine and get in there and start serving. God will take care of the rest.

Mike — 01/26/15 1:32 pm

Having been raised in a church environment in the Deep South, I have experienced some surprising attitudes while in the Lord's house. I do not attend church on a regular basis now due to some of these attitudes that are pervasive in today's church environment. First of all, I do not attend church to have someone tell me how to think or vote. I am a reasonably intelligent individual and can make those decisions as I see fit. I really cannot see Jesus as one that promotes conservatism as he was most likely one of the most liberal thinkers of his time on earth. When I walk through the doors of a church, I expect what is demonstrated in the teachings of the Bible and only respect judgement from the good Lord. I sin every day and so does everyone else I know. I do not need someone else pointing that out. I also try to understand and show respect to other religions and don't believe that everyone but my denomination are going to hell. Bearing witness is not about knocking on doors harassing folks or traveling to another country to dig a well. Being a witness that serves the Lord, in my opinion, is about treating everyone with respect and giving back to those in need on a daily basis. The purpose of religion in society is to learn to know the difference between right and wrong. It's just that simple. Please quit trying to shove your rules down my throat.

June Page Jagunic — 01/26/15 10:10 am

Regardling #2: I recently heard a speaker talking on your topic and saying for your #2, first time attenders (or more) aren't looking for 'friendly people' (definition: those who greet you then quickly go talk to their established friends as you look on). They are looking for friends (definition: people who are really interested in getting to know you and will include you in their conversation with those you know). I couldn't agree more! Jesus' circle is all inclusive and offers love for all; ours should be, too.

Michael M. — 01/26/15 8:35 am

I think you left out the most important piece - NOT preaching from the word! Typical 12 step programs or cute stories about the pastor's life, or a predictable three point sermon without really getting into God's Word.

Tony — 01/26/15 7:52 am

That "greeting each other thing" has driven me from many many churches. It was what originally drove me from the Catholic Church.

Jeff Martin — 01/26/15 6:18 am

I think one and two are directly related. When you force people to greet one another you will have more fake greetings

GLOWAustin — 01/25/15 11:36 pm

Who cares because if you listen to Him then He will get you to the right church. All these are man-made excuses - the number 1 reason should be because He did not show up . . .

Alice — 01/25/15 9:11 pm

Most churches I visited that had a meet and greet during the service, the people from the church only spoke to each other, Most people couldn't be bothered speaking to the visitors. It was a time of "fellowship."

Norma Conner — 01/25/15 5:14 pm

My top two would be #1 and #8, especially #1!

Patti — 01/25/15 4:35 pm

I remember moving to Arkansas 20 years ago from the north and neighbors coming to greet us at our new house, or stopping me in my driveway to introduce themselves and to ask what church I went too? Initially this bothered me because I was taught that religion, like politics, is personal. I also thought "where's the casserole" because that's what we'd do when a new person moved into our neighborhood while growing up. I understand now that southerners are welcoming you into their world by inviting you to their church and appreciate being part of this now. In retrospect, I probably still would've preferred a casserole and getting to know my new neighbors by being invited to their homes first and becoming friends. I say this because if, and when, I may have tried their church, I wouldn't have felt like an outsider because I knew someone to sit with. Attending new churches has felt similar to not getting picked in Jr. High School Physical Ed basketball. In my opinion, this is the biggest issue I have found problematic in churches....a sense of not being/feeling welcomed. It's not that people don't say hello (although I have tried new churches where no one has greeted me/us at all), but I have longed for a church where we were invited to dinner, to know how to volunteer and know how to be part of things without having to force ourselves on the church members, to be able to sit at a table at a church function and have others actually talk back to us when we spoke to them first. I recognize that church is not about us, but church should be about making others feel like they matter, no matter who they are, just as Jesus intended. Reaching out sincerely and not snubbing. I know that there are always going to be unfriendy or fake people, but they definitely shouldn't be the ones welcoming others.

shannon — 01/25/15 11:55 am

Maybe instead of running from church to church when something don't sit well with you, maybe try to understand why and suggest ways you feel could be better. God might of put you there to refresh their methods. I guess I feel churches are gods house used by people who are not perfect, God knows I need work. God draws people to church, maybe it's for you, maybe it's for you and for what you can offer the others. Maybe I'm way off here.

Cora — 01/25/15 11:54 am

We recently moved to a large city after spending most of our lives in small towns. A mature believers, we took our time looking for a solid church in which we could both grow and contribute. Out of some 15-20 churches we visited, there was only one whose members made us feel genuinely welcome. Whether a church had "meet and greets" or not, nearly every greeting was hollow, distracted, or forced. The church we finally connected with took us almost an hour to get out the door after service, because of so many genuine conversations. People didn't just force a "hello, my name is...", but asked genuine questions. "Were we new to the area?" "what brought us to the area?" "Do you have any kids?" Then they genuinely listened to the answers and offered part of their lives in conversation, as well. Meet and greets are not inherently bad, but they can truly just be a show case for how distracted, self-centered, or shy we are. Can we as Christians step out of ourselves long enough to genuinely care about a stranger's life? Put aside our pre-conceptions and meet this person? Maybe we'll find life-long Christian friends, or maybe just help an unbelieving visitor not have one more excuse for not coming back. If they want a reason not to come back, they'll find one, but at least a lack of a genuine welcome won't be it.

keith,gerri harlow — 01/25/15 11:08 am

wow, didn't think it was that bad. God forgive us for being so selfish! you never know.

Trevor — 01/25/15 10:34 am

I visited a church in Tennessee last week whose sanctuary was being renovated, so the service was in a different part of the church. Which wasn't unusual, but what was was the fact that the church decided to start the service about 10 minutes earlier. Despite my intentions to arrive a couple minutes earlier, I was walked in late. After the service I was told that the pastor sometimes just starts the service early. Well, I guess that's one church I will not be guesting again at anytime soon!

Amy — 01/25/15 10:10 am

My husband and I listen to Pastor Mark Driscoll via podcast/youtube and we really connected with him even though he is 2,000 miles away. We tried to connect with a church nearby but none of them were working for some reason. We kept going thinking something would "click." When we heard Pastor Mark say, "If the husband doesn't connect with the Pastor, he won't want to go and the wife will drag him to church. It needs to be the husband's decision." That's what "clicked" for my husband. He loved everything else about the church, but the Pastor wasn't a strong leader like my husband needed to look up to. Unfortunately, we are still looking.

Emily R. — 01/25/15 6:34 am

Don't underestimate the power of a website. It doesn't need to be fancy. Even just a page that lists where the church is and the times of the service or services. If your church changes service times in the summer make sure that information is available. My husband and I just moved to a new area and were looking for a church.We were surprised with how few churches in the area have a website or even a Facebook page. It was frustrating to not be able to find out even the basic information of service times.

Sandra — 01/25/15 1:11 am

I visited one of the larger Southern Baptist churches when I was " church shopping" for a church home/family for my two children and I. We had recently moved to a new town with no family/support system. No one spoke as we entered they just shoved a bulletin in my hand and left me to navigate my way on my own. The pastor delivered a great message so much so that a lady toward the front began to praise the Lord in tongues. While I personally did not have that gift I did respect it and was somewhat impressed that it wasn't a " follow the leader" fake type of thing. Well as we were leaving it seemed all the deacons realized I was a visitor and were tripping over themselves to "apologize for that uncalled for outburst". Needless to say that was my first and last time at that church. I was also offended at a church of God that grabbed my children and whisked them away to a whole other building not letting me chose if they went to a children's church or not. Here these people I have never met are taking my children. Have they had background checks, are they going to have a lesson or is this just a place so unruly children don't disrupt service. Again my first and last visit to that church. Be aware that you don't know anything about these visitors life or background. In my case my son was a victim of physical and sexual abuse and had ADHD, ODD & PTSD. These are reason that a parent needs to meet your children's staff and be allowed to keep their children in the sanctuary if that is the best fit for their family. I had never had a problem with keeping them quiet as I always came prepared with plenty of paper crayons and other quiet activity. It is best to let parents know what is available in case they want it now or have a problem later. I was very uncomfortable there and could not do what I came to do which was worship our Lord and Savior. I also agree with those saying to have a mix of music we are a diversified population and as such we have varied taste in music, worship and life.

Karen Jones — 01/24/15 10:10 pm

Unfortunately, I wasn't brought up in a Christian home,nor was I a member of a church. I was in my 40's with 4 children and had not been to church since I was a child. A friend told me about a great Methodist Church in a suburb nearby. I dressed all four kids up and we got there at the time my friend said, 8:45 a.m. Apparently, the service had started at 8:30 a.m. No big deal, right? We decided to go in anyway, so during a break in the service, we started to walk in. Everyone there stared at us with disgust, rolled their eyes and made us feel like we were the scum of the earth for daring to be late. No one spoke to us after the service. After we left there, I didn't attend another service for 20 years, and I am just happy that most of my grown children attend some kind of church now. Obviously, they don't remember the humiliation they and I felt that day. I thank God for my grandchild, who with his mother's family attends Catholic Church regularly. It gives me a new reason to go to church and try to forget the humiliation of not fitting in before.

Kim — 01/24/15 9:54 pm

if I am visiting a church for the first time, I do not want to feel, well, stalked. I'd rather be anonymous, get a feel for the place, and then make friends a little later. Please don't ask me for my phone number, or when would be a good time to visit. It would be overwhelming.

nancy — 01/24/15 7:22 pm

I love the meet and greet time, its how I get to meet new people and start to make new friends, each week I get to know a little more of the people there, its one of many reasons why i'm at the church I go to now, the people are so nice and friendly, if you take this time away and I would go to another church and there was no meet and greet...............I wouldn't be back.

Kaitlyn — 01/24/15 3:34 pm

So many people commenting above just don't get it. If you are new to Christ, had a bad experience with another church or new to an area, yeah you're going to feel uncomfortable in a church. You say to go because it's time to "keep the Sabbath holy" and go for God. Guess what? I don't need to step into a church to get in touch with God, the Sabbath is Saturday not Sunday. It's important to treat people with respect, why would you expect someone to come back if they were treated poorly? You wouldn't stand for that treatment

Kristen — 01/24/15 12:42 pm

I was told I was in someone's seat once, It was an empty pew, they were a family of 4. I slid down to make room, then got to listen to her piss and moan the whole sermon about how rude I for not to move. If I would have known there was assigned seating I wouldn't have sat there. I never went back. Another Church we were invited to the pot luck after the service. Then got the stink eye and reprimand for eating and not bringing anything. I will practice my faith on my own thank you.

Steve Blackmon — 01/24/15 12:39 pm

It seems a lot of commenters are using this as an excuse for an all-encompassing gripe session about churches. It's really a very explicit topic...what are the reasons that people who go to a particular church FOR THE FIRST TIME DO NOT RETURN FOR A SECOND TIME. That's it! I took the point to be once they have come in the door for the first time, what did they see, experience, not like, felt uncomfortable with...whatever...that led to them deciding not to go back a second time. No church is perfect, because they all are filled with imperfect people. In all fairness, it's also true that many actually are looking for a reason NOT to attend a church regularly. If you are looking for faults, problems, reasons not to do something, you can certainly find them because that is where your focus lies. One commenter said something about visitors "don't love God yet", and that's why they are merely visiting. I disagree totally! While that may describe some, it is not universal by any means. Many visit a church for the first time because they are new in town. They love God and were dedicated church goers at a previous church, but have moved. They are in search of a church home... I don't see anything wrong with a "meet and greet". True, members should recognize and warmly greet new faces in the crowd. They are wrong if they don't...but just as wrong to me are the visitors who merely stand there like statues waiting and expecting others to come to them. That is wrong as well. Relationships are two-sided. Nothing says a visitor in church cannot walk to someone, stick out their hand, and say, "hi, I'm 'so-and-so'. This is my first time here. Can you tell me something about the church?" God may have led them to that church because someone already there may be needing to meet someone just like them.

Jerry Patterson — 01/24/15 11:24 am

I did not see the response that particularly irritates me. This is that churches have thrown away the hymnals and old songs. I have been retired from the pastorate for 12 years. During these last twelve years, we have visited a number of churches. I can sight read music, especially the melody line (after a fashion). But, I go into a church, lyrics are flashed on the projector of a 7-11 chorus and I have no idea of the melody. I like to sing harmony which I could do if the score of the music were displayed.. Moreover, I have watched congregations respond to this. I remember one church that we were visiting in Arkansas. After a number of choruses, some of which I had never heard, the congregational hymn was "How Great Thou Art." I looked around and was surprised at the vastly increased participation by the congregation and also the people smiled. I don't object to something new, but the old hymns have lasted for so long because they are better. Generally, most of the churches are unfriendly. I remember visiting a church in Wichita, Kansas. The church was packed with young adults. A number of older people, (65+) greeted me, but not a single one of the younger adults greeted me. I remember visiting one Hispanic Baptist Church where it was very obvious that the people did not want new people.

Allen — 01/24/15 7:34 am

Read these comments, this is why I don't attend church services.

Mr. Paulien Guillott Jr. — 01/23/15 8:47 pm

You are correct. Twitter response is not a scientific response and hardly a Spiritually worthy reason to publish the premise nor the results. There is no way you could define nor inforce the parameters for an issue of such gravity using Twitter. Far too glib.

Christian Wife and Mom without a church — 01/23/15 7:22 pm

I grew up in church and was saved very young. As an adult, I tried very hard to give my kids a positive christian fellowship experience. I worked hard to volunteer in the church, as well as bring my kids to volunteer as well. I was also involved 3 days a week with music ministry. We were in attendance very consistently for 5 years, and gave it our all. I found the congregants to be gossiping in hurtful ways, nosy, even exclusive at times. I did not want to let the behavior of some key people get to me, but, eventually, it did. I miss it very much but these are painful memories.

asticatsmom — 01/23/15 2:39 pm

I grew up attending relatively small churches where everyone knew everybody and if you'd been there 5 minutes, you weren't a stranger anymore. Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be the case anymore, whether it's a large church or a small one. I do not actively attend church because the churches I have visited failed to extend a welcome. The greeter simply said "hello" and handed me a bulletin, during the "greeting time" the congregation only greeted those they knew, and, although I filled out a visitor's care as requested, I never heard a word from anyone after my visit. No phone call, no letter, no post card. I'm not sure how congregations expect to spread the gospel when can't be bothered to even be friendly!

Amanda — 01/23/15 9:49 am

Website and/or bulletins need to be clear on what is expected of kids during the service. Are they expected to stay during the service? Or is there a nursery or Children's Church they should attend during the service? Where is it? For what ages? And when do you take them there - at beginning of service or sometime after the music or whatnot? Does the pastor make an announcement or are the kids just supposed to go at some point? Do I take them or does a teacher gather the kids and lead them to the classroom at that point? Every church does it different and I've yet to see any of this info on a church website or in a bulletin. I usually have to ask someone when I get there and if that someone doesn't have kids they usually don't know either!

Matthew — 01/19/15 10:04 am

I hate the meet and greet. Do pastors think that 15 random strangers shaking my hand for .5 seconds will make me feel welcome? It is just insincere, when you spend 30 seconds talking to your friends and don't even ask my name. I really hate the "please raise your hand if you are new". The hand raising and random amens at the end of each paragraph are distracting and selfish acts meant to draw attention to the church goer, and away from the message. The other thing that I can't stand is hearing people gossip. Of course they don't gossip to a guest, but we all hear it, and it just makes you all seem fake. For those of you that think that none of this should matter... when your church pushes away new members, you are no longer serving God and are serving yourself.

Rhiannon — 01/15/15 8:24 am

Thank you, Fox, for taking the time to reply. I really appreciate your thoughtful response. Please understand that I was not trying to pick on your denomination. Conscious superiority is a phenomenon I have seen across the world's three monotheistic religions. (Is this website sponsored by SDAs or another particular denomination? I found this article because a friend posted a link to it on FB and I was interested.) Again, I wasn't trying to pick on SDAs. What draws me to Christianity is the beauty I see in the lives of some of the Christians I know. In fact, one of the most beautiful Christians I know is an SDA. But anytime I encounter an attitude of "We have the truth, all others are wrong" I am put off. I worship the Creator on His Sabbath. That's about the only thing I have in common with Christianity. Or Jews, for that matter. As far as Jesus. I don't know. I am still studying that part of it out. But the point I wanted to make was that simply because I am not a Christian does not mean that I am immoral or that all of my beliefs are wrong. Probably some of them are, which is why I continue to study. Personally, I don't have a problem with personal meet-and-greet during a worship service or even a bad website. I can always call on the phone. What I do have a problem with is the assumption that because I am not a Christian, I am some how "less than" in my morals and intelligence or that I am lacking in beliefs.

Eric — 01/15/15 8:13 am

Completely agree! Well said.

Fox — 01/14/15 8:44 pm

I am responding to a comment from "Rhiannon". I would like to apologize for the way that you have perceived a slight from a young Adventist boy. I am an elder in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and your comment has saddened me. God has many children, devout followers of Jesus, in all Christian denominations. Jesus said, "salvation is of the Jews". John 4:22 If you are a follower of Christ, then you are a spiritual Jew, grafted into the family of God. Rom. 11:17 Certainly the gift of salvation is not exclusive to the Seventh-Day Adventists. It is available to anyone who believes on our Lord Jesus Christ and does as He commands. I can not know what that young boy was taught or why he thought that he should tell you what he did. But, I can tell you this, I was never taught that. If fact, I was taught that there are many other groups of believers who keep the 7th day Sabbath. It is part of the SDA Church's well known history, that we were started by Sunday keeping Adventists who eventually came to understand that the Sabbath is the 7th day of the week. I look forward to meeting many Sunday worshipers in the Kingdom. So please do not form an opinion of who the Adventists are based on one misinformed, but well meaning youth.

Jerry Adams — 01/14/15 8:37 pm

Another I have seen in my church and other churches is people saving seats by placing bulletins and bibles on seats or pews and leave them unattended. My church once asked members to refrain from doing that. Vistitors see that when they look for somewhere to sit. Another turn-off at my church is not having an area to hang coats. We had a coat closet, but it was discontinued and used to store the tymphanies (drums).

Alfreda Hopper — 01/14/15 4:51 pm

I'm surprised that so many people are going to church to look at the pews, carpet, etc. I go to church to get closer in my relationship with Jesus. I wouldn't want to go for any other reason.

Rhiannon — 01/14/15 4:25 pm

I appreciate your insightful response, Burt B, and could not agree more. Personally, I am NOT a committed church goer. I haven't been to a church in . . . oh, it's got to be about 8 years. The two items from the above list that really resonate with me are numbers 2 (Unfriendly church members) and 7 (Insider church language). I would like to add one more to the list that is the biggest turn off of all for me: a subtle, but very present attitude of conscious superiority over other belief systems - rejecting others' beliefs out of hand. I may not be a member of the church I visited, but that does not mean I am immoral. Nor does it mean that I have no beliefs whatsoever. I find it offensive in the extreme to be confronted with the attitude of exclusive ownership of truth. Certainly not all Christians do this, but many, many do. It's engrained in them from childhood. Allow me to illustrate. I was once visiting with a very sweet boy, roughly 10 years of age. He asked me if I were a Seventh-day Adventist (because I worshipped on the seventh day Sabbath). I told him, "No, I am not. Are you?" He replied, "Yes! We're the only ones that keep holy the true Sabbath day!" Now that boy, who was a very nice, well trained child, was obviously only repeating what he had been told or had overheard. The problem is, it's not true. I didn't argue with him, but I did feel disgusted that such a superior attitude had been engrained in him at such a young age when there are over 600 separate denominations that worship on Saturday! (And SDAs learned it from Seventh Day Baptists!)

Burt B — 01/14/15 2:15 pm

Most of the commenters seem to be missing the point (which validates a couple of Rainer's points). The question at hand is "Why do those who decide to visit church ONE TIME not come back a second time?" If you're a committed churchgoer, then what you would like to experience at church isn't what he's trying to uncover. Yet many churchgoers on this thread are chiming in with "what ought to be on the list" too. If you are a committed churchgoer, you don't know what ought to be on the list. It's not your list. It's the list of those who went to church one time, didn't get it, so didn't show back up again. If you really want to know what people who are far from God think about your church gatherings, then just pay attention to his list (which comes from their own lips) without trying to add to it. And please quit saying things like, "Well, they should just come because they love God." They don't love God yet. That's why they're just showing up for the first time! I, for one, will give some consideration to this list and evaluate what we're doing on Sundays, because I don't want to put unnecessary hurdles up for those taking the first baby step. Thanks Dr. Rainer.

Randolph Colby — 01/14/15 1:34 pm

Something I have noticed in many of the comments, Many seem to feel that to do anything to make new comers and visitors comfortable and welcome is an assault on spirituality. All the suggested changes in the list are common sense things that anyone, Christian or otherwise, would appreciate as simple common courtesy. I fail to see how Christ and His work and message could be harmed or compromised by implementing any of these.

HugNHowdy — 01/13/15 6:12 pm

Greeting time is called "Hug & Howdy" at our church, and it's the best part to me, and it seems the rest of our church really likes it! (nobody is forced to hug or say hi) If we're the body, we need to know who all our parts are! I think it's an unhealthy body that doesn't talk.... and why only before or after? Some people are late, and others tear out of there quickly, so having it in the middle seems perfect for us. I read all the comments on here and it's such a downer. I have complaints about my church too but not a chip on my shoulder like several here, e.g. the lady who hasn't been back since she was 11, just because of ONE church. Now that doesn't make any logical sense! She's harboring bitterness and unforgiveness, not giving even one church in decades a chance... and she's so proud of it! It's too bad what happened, but that was LONG ago and there are many churches where you can wear sweatpants/be accepted. But if you don't like the greeting time, visit another church, because if that one is like ours, then all the regular folks enjoy it. And if 'Jeff' can't wear a nametag? I wonder if that could be an issue at some jobs? People are taking an interest in who he is, they don't want to forget his name, and by not wearing one, that calls even more attention to himself. He likes the pastor, but won't go back?! Makes no sense to me. I'm sure that church is baffled to death when wondering what they could've possibly done wrong. He should tell someone there that he's sensitive to people who are insistent....maybe they didn't mean to be forceful about it. I wish I could explain many of these issues: clapping, for instance, is what humans do when they're happy, excited, or pleased....no, they are not approving the entertainment. But even if they were, what's so bad about that... people compliment the pastor, and those who provide snacks, and hopefully the church cleaner. I agree with the seat-savers: they need to be reported to the pastor. They don't realize how rude it is... that is very unwelcoming. But it stems from back to George Mueller's day. He was the first pastor to stop charging money for the seats. Before that, you truly owned the pew that you sat in each week - it was yours!

Zattanna — 01/13/15 2:23 pm

Way too loud music was a reason I left, I think that needs to be on this chart.

Garrett — 01/13/15 1:22 am

I have been involved with the church all my life and am also a PK and believe i have litrrally seen and heard it all. I can surely understand many of the formentioned comments. I to would also love to hear a good mix of old AND new music. Would love to sing a song that I have at least heard once before. I also agree with the comment about the raising your hands up ALL the time. I understand when you are moved during the sermon or singing and raise your hands or say amen but the same individuals week in and week out that keep their hands raised almost the ENTIRE service or say "Praise the Lord" after each paragraph that comes out of the pastors mouth is a bit much! My father used to tell me "these are the look at me I am more Christian than you" parishioners. That just must be noticed during the service. I personally come to hear the pastors sermon not the congregations comments! We have an eloquent pastor that will move your heart if you just listen. Lastly gentleman, take off your hats when you are in church!! Show some respect in our Fathers House.

Marie Maple — 01/13/15 1:15 am

'Modern' church music is way too loud, and will eventually hurt ear drums.

Marie Maple — 01/13/15 1:12 am

Elderly sometimes kind of ignored. We miss the old chants we grew up with, the 'old' Our Father',etc. Modern music is interesting, but we risk a visit to the ear doctor, because this 'with it' music is unnecessarily loud, and really hurts our ears.

D. Allmon - 01/13/15 — 01/13/15 12:36 am

Yes there are MANY reasons not to attend worship service....BUT, the true reasons to attend is because our FATHER in Heaven says in the WORD we should fellowship, and commune with one another. When we as Christians "meet and greet" with you its because we want you to feel welcomed, again just as the WORD says, "we should greet one another with a "godly" hug," it is not to make you feel uncomfortable. Many people are lonely, alone, hurting and need a hug! As for "some" rude members actions, Jesus himself was rejected by many but He showed love, patience and kindness "in spite " of some ignorance, and "delivered" them from it "all!" Are we not striving to become like our "greatest" example of human mankind? Something to pray about and ask God to show you how to make a "real" difference in others lives who really do not know the God inside of them!!!! BBLESSED.

James — 01/12/15 10:38 pm

Unfortunately there's much more to it than this top ten. There is a huge inner conflict in most people that go to a church and perceive things that make them not return. Personally I find myself able to worship at services of most denominations. When a child of God truly submits to His will, they will be at peace wherever they go. Being uncomfortable comes more often from guilt and shame. We are too hard on ourselves. That's why "let go, and let God" came about. We aren't at church to make up for the past. We aren't at church to seek the approval of elders and good standing community members after doing them wrong. If you are offended by, or dislike a church for these reasons in this top ten. Then I believe you should step back, look in a mirror. Forgive yourselves, let it go. Then, when you truly feel you are ready to let it go. Ask God for forgiveness and guidance. Ask Him to allow your heart to open up. Be free! Honor the message in Proverbs and find knowledge in these different churches you attend. Because when you really look at the big picture. These are complaints about God and what many of his people are trying to achieve in worship. The only thing that matters is that you "Remember the Sabbath Day." Wherever that takes you is between you and Him, as long as the day belongs to Him!

sean — 01/12/15 9:35 pm

I have been in churches with the "handshake time" my whole life. I have never liked it, when I am new nor when I have been there for years. I feel that if folks want that interaction they should get there earlier or stay after. I am not there for them but for the Lord. Also, the placement in the service of this time makes no sense! It is usually after the first couple of songs and prayer. So the Spirit begins to move and work on the worshipers then we totally change gears and make the Sanctuary more like a zoo than a house of worship. I usually just go get a drink of water to avoid it. Can't stand it but can't change it either.

Eric — 01/12/15 2:46 pm

@Anita - Some guests don't go to church to worship God. They go to church looking for Him. If church members/proprietors get in the way of that, it's on them. It's good to be aware of these things. It's good to take action to rectify them and not to justify them. To know to do right and not to do it, that is sin. Besides, why shouldn't the house of God be as hospitable as possible? You wouldn't invite someone to your house if it was dirty. You would feel ashamed. How do you think God feels when someone visits His house, and it isn't presentable? You're right though. Church isn't about YOU. It's about service, one to another. Why then shouldn't the church serve its guests even as Christ would? I believe Jesus would give me pretty good directions if I asked him how to get my two year old to the nursery, but only if He felt that nursery was safe for her. He might also give me His seat; after all, He gave me his life. After that, giving up His usual Sunday morning seat, hardly seems like a sacrifice at all.

Anita — 01/12/15 11:03 am

If the reason you were going to church was to worship God, then none of the excuses (reasons) would be an issue. Church is not about YOU!

James — 01/12/15 9:29 am

Hi... I was a bit disturbed by your comment that ridiculed having a paid praise team. I am a worship leader, and work very hard at what I do. I love the lord and absolutely love what I do. Too many times though, we are treated like the second rate help and are not treasured for the sacrifice many (not all) of us make to put ourselves aside and try to remain in such a place in worship that you can enter worship with ease. I'm not saying we DO it for the money, because people like me would do it whether or not we are paid, but for you to ridicule the fact that we are paid feeds into the injustice that uses up and spits out musicians and singers and don't see their priceless worth.

Cyndi — 01/12/15 8:21 am

the chanting music heard week after week; needs to be mixed with old southern, gospel, and other types instead of same old chanting on screen; I feel like I am in a funeral service instead of praising the Lord.

Sue — 01/12/15 8:03 am

How about attending church because you are hungry to hear the word of God? I remember back 41 years when my husband and I were married and living away from both of our families. We both were raised in small congregations, so we sought out a church in a small town about 8 miles away. I remember that all of these "reasons for not returning" were probably exhibited that day, but we never used them for excuses for not returning. We went back the next week and the next and ended up joining the church. We shouldn't expect everything to be "perfect". If things aren't to our liking, maybe we need to help make it better. It is the Christian way !!

Georgia — 01/11/15 10:37 pm

The music singing the same thing over and over til u are ready to Jump up and run out the door. Too loud. No old music all new stuff

Rhiannon — 01/11/15 10:33 pm

Thank you for this well written perspective. Two incidents stand very clearly in my mind, years after the fact. Twenty years ago, I attended a church I had never been to before. Two people spoke to me: 1, the "greeter" at the door gave me a cool smile and "Good morning" when she handed me a bulletin; 2, the woman I asked for directions to the restroom. No one else spoke to me at all. I was nicely dressed, I'm not bashful nor do I need the other person to be the first to reach out, but it was an interesting experience to be so wholly ignored. Second experience, we had been invited to attend this church by the guest speaker, a friend of ours. Knowing there would be a potluck afterward, I took a lot of food: casserole, vegetable, large salad, dessert. Wow! The women in the kitchen were soooo cold! I was used to church kitchens being warm, friendly places. Not so at this place. The women were too busy peering suspiciously at what I had brought, trying to determine if it met their dietary standards. Everything I brought did meet it as we were vegan at the time and so was the potluck. Apparently, they liked to eat lightly on their worship days so everyone else had brought only salads. I had some left over salad, but the large casserole, the cooked vegetable and the large dessert were GONE. Guess the members didn't like to eat just salads, either. LOL

Lyndell Hetrick Holtz — 01/11/15 7:01 pm

I am surprised that music poorly done was not a reason! I am a church goer but my husband and I are truly sick of churches trying to do contemporary music and do it very poorly!! Today our church brought in a "new" band. They took up 45 minutes of the service. They were so loud that I left with a throbbing headache. Several people got up and left and stood in the foyer!! How is it that musicians are so insensitive to what their audience is experiencing!! it so often seems like they are having their own private party up on stage.

Thomas Spencer — 01/11/15 6:35 pm

HHow about you being ignored, but wife and son getting handshake and hug.

An Dresner — 01/11/15 6:29 pm

I am "late" to morning worship service by choice. I do not enjoy the meet and greet part. So others may enjoy this custom, I choose to arrive just after the song following the meet and greet begins. To the comment of not caring for the hand raising to meet the hands of G-d as He presents Himself to those praising Him; I would much rejoice knowing each worshipper is so invested in praising G-d that they do not have time to "check out" how others praise and receive Him. Glory to G-d in the highest, Amen.

lauren — 01/11/15 3:12 pm

For me the two biggest reason why I dont return to a church I visit . 1. They dont know how to deal or help a child with special needs. Normally they put my son in a corner and give him pictures to color. 2. The rude comments I get when im sick and have to use a cane or a walker. Sad since I grew up in Church and want my kids to have the Same church experience I had growing up.

Kenneth — 01/11/15 1:04 pm

I like to go to church and listen to the sermon. I am a loner and do not like mingling with others. I don't go because I do not want to be put in an uncomfortable position. Lots of people don't understand this and they think I'm rude and mean. I am a Christian and I love God. I am different and I like to help others in my own way. I'm one of those that does things for others without them knowing it was me that did it.

Suzanne — 01/11/15 12:03 pm

When people say they are not welcomed well and they don't like the stand up and meet and greet, that's not necessarily a contradiction. Real welcoming is including newcomers into members' lives. Entirely different concept.

Leslie — 01/11/15 10:53 am

when I was a teen, I used to visit a church with my cousin when I was in town. the youth group was extremely snobby, and no one ever said a word to me. as an adult, I attended a church for a while, but always felt judged and there was always those who 'ran' the church. I've not been to church in years. just not good experiences with it.

Dorene — 01/11/15 9:39 am

Over 31 yrs ago we were new to our town and attended FBC and was told by a member that we were seating in there pew. We were stunned. This same lady asked us where we lived - down the hill from here- her response to us was we live at the top of the hill where the mortgages were higher. We were stunned again. We joined another church

reelstuff10 — 01/11/15 8:30 am

Yes, indeed, it is revealing, good to see that you are looking for the reasons, this is the kind of information that every church should be looking at on a regular basis. Sadly though a lot of Churches have this stand up and tell your neighbor "you look good today" it is something that is both good and bad, Church leaders should know that by percentage most people are introverts, so yes, most introverts would be happy to sit in a church service and never say a single word out loud, that is something that should be worked on but not in a force you to do it way. There are no perfect methods of doing this.

Karen — 01/11/15 8:28 am

Really hate the insider talk that only SOME of the members understand. Meet and greet should be at the very end of the service. That way it is a natural transition to want to talk more. During the service some people do more than meet, often carry on the conversation way to long. Another annoyance is always clapping for anyone and everyone that does something during the service. We are not at church to be entertained, give approval or perform for the congregation's approval. Many think church is a stage to perform. We are there to praise God, only his approval is needed.

beau — 01/11/15 8:12 am

I was disappointed by church I had been visiting. One day the preacher holds up 2 books, one a Catholic and one a Morman and says "We need to pray for these people" explaining they are not saved. 2nd time I was at church, open minded, and they were disappointed that I didn't speak in tongues. Well, I wasn't going to fake it and they really seem to believe that I wasn't saved due to not performing well. Then weeks later, I learn something, one of the people explained to me that I should go up there on Tuesday night so I could find a place to practice, that's what they would do he said "practice your vocals, find a rhythm". If I were to speak in tongues, I shouldn't have to practices, besides, it is the least important gift, the greatest is love.

Cabin Boy — 01/11/15 7:12 am

We left a large mega church, because they turned the church into a business. Too many people getting paid large salaries. Even a paid praise team. I totally agree with the gentlemen about patterning our churches after the New Testament first century churches. We are called to be little "Christs" and true disciple of Jesus. Our new country church has members who take turns with prayer time, communion time, greeting, leading singing and yes even sometimes are expected to deliver sermons. We found the congregation that actually love and serve each other. No one leaves without honest hug and looking forward to the next week or heaven what ever comes first? Oh, no one asking you to move because you are in their seats. They simply find a different place to sit. Big hears for Christ there, and big service for Him!

tom donahue — 01/11/15 6:04 am

Sadly, what was lacking in the comments was anything pro or con about the presence of God Himself. Nothing about his Spirit, his word, or his leading. The issues mentioned are real and we need to work on them, but none of them will ever be the Main Thing.

Jeem — 01/10/15 7:50 pm

First I would like to say I am an extrovert who also does not like the meet and greet! I do like introducing myself and finding out who is sitting near me though. My problem is I am in the medical field and illness is so easily transmitted at church. People are always hacking and coughing. Currently my area hospitals are filled to the brink with flu victims. Years ago a little boy was sitting next to me and during the whole service digging into his nose with his finger. At the end of the service the pastor initiated a meet and greet. The little guy extended his hand toward me and I bend over with a smile and whispered in his ear why I could not shake his hand, and he nodded with understanding. I am not a scrooge or unfriendly, I just don't need to shake hands to be friendly!

Melody — 01/10/15 6:30 pm

There is an irony to those of you offended by the post. The body of Christ consists of various personalities that God created. Sure, dismiss this article and continue to blame shift. Heaven forbid we change tradition. Cuz that's exactly what it is.

Sarah D. — 01/10/15 5:15 pm

We left a church recently because the "ones that wanted to RUN the church" ran off the minister that would not let them "break rules" that the past minister had. Our minister and his wife were GREAT God loving people. Churches are made of MEMBERS.. but when it comes to making decisions, it is no longer a democracy of members. Back room meetings are not Christian - like! My Mom always said, "when ever a church is built, the devil builds one beside it!"

Dorris Potter — 01/10/15 3:48 pm

The truth is not told according to the scripture. Ministry, is anywhere one accepts and gives others the opportunity to believe the interpretations of scripture approximately, as we all have our interpretations.

Jim Cunningham — 01/10/15 3:40 pm

To me, not to be greeted with a smile and hello, means I go to another church. I do not like the scheduled time to meet and greet as it bothers me as a visitor and a member. I prefer meeting and greeting before the services start. The handshaking has always been a customary greeting manner in America and a lot of other countries. If I have been sick or feeling down, I do not offer my hand and offer an apology. If someone does not shake my hand but just smiles and says hello or thank you, then I am fine with that. If they ignore me then I leave the rest to the Lord. I like the handshake because I get a feeling of the person by his grip. A lot of Asian people offer a head bow and I return that in kind. I am sincere in my greeting as I want them to feel accepted. I do like to set in a particular place but that place is OUR (the Church) place so it is definitely not polite to ask someone to move. It is not Christ-Like to do that. Would that member offer me the shirt off his back, probably not. We need to remember that we are all sinners. Are Christians hypocrites, yes we are. Are you? Yes you are. So hay, try another church until you find one that you feel at home at. Thanks for the survey, there seems to be a lot of thought provoking information here that we could use to build on to maybe improve on.

purposeunderheaven — 01/10/15 2:56 pm

I sometimes think the church has become a place more like a club we join if it fits our quirks and our needs rather than a place filled with those who are filled with the spirit and desire to serve the Lord. Is Church services where we are suppose to be witnessing to the unsaved? Or is it where those who are one in Christ are to worship Him, love on one another and remember him in the Lord's supper. We crave numbers at what ever the cost, but I suspect God might prefer a group focused on Him. In fact, I believe if our churches lived out the word by Loving God and allowing Him to love others through us, people would not be making half these comments. If we made the decision to respect and treat those outside the church as we desire to be treated, but we agaped the body of Christ like Christ agaped us then people would fight to be part of the Body of Christ. Does anyone want what most churches have? What is the fruit of most church members?

babs — 01/10/15 12:53 pm

I was 11 years old and escorted out of the church by the pastor and members because I was not dressed well enough. I was wearing sweats and sandals because that was the best I had. really Christian. I haven't been back to a Christian church since. and I'm 53. never ever again. Christians are a big joke! please don't bombard me with emails or try to get someone to visit me.

Joann Buchanan — 01/10/15 12:16 pm

I am sure we all can find fault with anything if we try. When someone is friendly with me I do not wonder if they are sincere or not. Just be glad they made the effort. Pilot found no fault with Jesus and looked what happened to Him! I would never tell anyone they are in MY seat. That is very rude. If someone is handicapped and needs a special seat, that is different.

J Vin — 01/10/15 8:32 am

Wow... I'm reading some of these comments by people who seem to be regular church goers, and I am surprised to see that there are things we are not beyond yet when it comes to US versus GOD. By that, I mean the things we are concerning ourselves with appear to be extremely petty compared to the reason we gather in the first place. I understand we want an atmosphere where people can come and feel comfortable and accepted, yes-- but how about a place where we are more God-centered than people-centered? The latter describes a place that makes me question whether or not we truly believe in Him, and that He truly is the answer for us all. I could say more, but I'm really trying not to write a loooong comment ;)

Jeff best — 01/10/15 7:18 am

You know! You don't have to go to church to be saved. People are looking for salvation all or most of their life, and will never be satisfied with mans device for salvation. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Not a man made religion.

Danny — 01/10/15 5:41 am

I agree with #2 and #9 Those just don't happen with first time guests either

Nicole — 01/10/15 1:01 am

This article almost disgusts me. This is the picture of today's American church. Where we only go to church if it's "just right". We have people being slaughtered and persecuted for their faith in other parts of the world, but Heaven forbid the church website doesn't look like it was built by Bill Gates. This is the reason why church is such a mockery nowadays because churches feel the need to put on these shows or have these gimmicks just to get people to show up. Let's all not forget why we go to church. Jesus. Jesus saved all of us, and it shouldn't be in our response to be spoiled little rotten children that complain about the environment when we live in a country that we can worship freely.

sean — 01/09/15 11:09 pm

I dont like the stand up and greet either. Felt like a spotlight was on my family. But I really regretted filling out the visitor card with my address. The deacons showed up at my house the next day. Totally creeped us out and we never went back. Just be friendly shake my hand and if I like the service I'll be back.

Anne — 01/09/15 10:28 pm

I've attended my present church for over 30 years. I still hate and dread the "passing of the peace." I am shy, though I have many close friends, and I strongly dislike being forced to shake hands with strangers and make a statement (peace be unto you) which feels artificial. It's not a germ issue at all, I would just rather greet people when I feel comfortable doing so, and say something less formal and fake. Usually I pretend to be looking for something in my purse and avoid the whole experience.

donna — 01/09/15 9:24 pm

I can understand that some people feel uncomfortable during the "meet & greet." However, it's the easiest way to meet people and let them know you are glad they came to visit. I guess there is no perfect way to greet visitors, some people will say the people are too friendly, others will say not friendly enough. You can't please everybody, some people look for a reason not to go to church.

Esther — 01/09/15 7:34 pm

Ha! I would show up late to every Sunday morning worship, just to avoid the meet and greet. Not that I didn't -or don't- love the congregants, rather I am not a touchy, feely person and shaking hands, hugging people or discussing my personal life is too much for me. I have 4 kids who demand that of me 24-7, I don't want to deal with that at church or anywhere else!

Zona Crabtree — 01/09/15 6:17 pm

We meet with a small congregation. Guests are welcomed by members individually before or after services. A small book is on a table in the foyer if someone wishes to sign with name and where they are from. Information cards with times, etc. are beside the book. Yes, we are creatures of habit and tend to sit in about the same areas, but no one gets bent out of shape if they need to sit somewhere else. Sometimes someone will get up and move if a large family comes in so the family can sit together. Love the members.

peggy — 01/09/15 5:39 pm

I am a member of a small Baptist church. When I'm in the choir, meet and greet is not uncomfortable to me. But when in the congregation, I'm so uncomfortable. Not everyone is a "people person."

kate — 01/09/15 3:44 pm

You can't win. If you have meet and greet, they are uncomfortable. If you nothing, your not friendly. People will always find a reason!!!

RKay — 01/09/15 3:20 pm

My first time at our church I got there a few minutes late because I was going to a contemporary service which was not in the main chapel. I didn't know where to go and finally followed the music. Everyone was standing, so my 2 young daughters and I walked towards the front where both sides of the aisle were vacant. The three of us sat down and someone leaned forward to tell us that we were in the Pastor's seats. (Plural) what to do? We got up and we're looking around when s neighbor saw me and offered to take my girls to the Sunday School and make room for me. The Pastor left right after to rush to the other service. I was put off for a number of reasons...1. The congregation believed that the Pastor needed an entire row on both sides of the aisle for himself. Don't know if he thinks that, but was definitely uncomfortable. Also, I like to get to talk to the Pastor afterwards and develop a relationship, but he seemed to only want to talk to longtime members. His wife was the rudest /coldest Pastor wife I have ever come across. I occasionally go to this church still when I do go, but it isn't the most welcoming. To address the meet and greet time, I think most people are uncomfortable with touching/shaking hands. I think it is fine to smile and say hi, but not necessary to shake hands. I wish that adults would also lead by example and welcome everyone and not form cliques in church. The kids in Sunday School can be just as nasty.

Jeff — 01/09/15 2:37 pm

I have preached for 30 years... and each church where I've served has a "meet and greet" but have NEVER encountered anyone who's been offended by it. I'm suspecting there's more to the "I don't like the meet and greet" than just not liking that particular activity. Or perhaps the visitor's discomfort with M&G mentioned in this article was only one of several things that upset the visitor

Lori — 01/09/15 2:08 pm

We have attended a mega church in Guatemala City. During the service they ask all members to stand. The ushers identify visitor to give them a small gift, greet them and an information packet. It is not uncomfortable because everyone else is standing and singing a praise song. They make you feel really welcome without calling attention to you. Then as you leave I imagine they look for the people with packets in their hands and everyone is really friendly. When I went to seminary in Ohio way back when I went to seventeen churches before a single person acknowledged my existence.

Bob — 01/09/15 1:33 pm

Funny. Just heard a sermon today debunking this from a biblical point of view. Main point. Notice nobody cares about Biblical preaching. When did the quality of a handshake or sign replace solid biblical preaching. Jesus said HE would build His church on the confession He is the Christ, not what a nice parking lot you have. Everything they mentioned I can get at a bar or other social gathering. But where can I get the life changing power of the gospel? That's what I need. That's what the church needs to offer.

Craig Fuller — 01/09/15 1:22 pm

Our church meetings look a whole lot more like some friends coming over to the house for a BBQ and good conversation, and less like a stuffy Amway convention. When is the last time you had friends over to the house and then stopped in the middle of the evening for a time of hand shaking? It's just cheesy.

Craig Fuller — 01/09/15 1:09 pm

This article/blog is characterized by the fact that the “church leaders” have turned church into a business – complete with buildings, boards, events, secretaries, CEO’s and salaries. This is not what church is supposed to be. I wasn’t there, but I’m guessing the New Testament church never worried about who sat in whose pew, if the piano was in tune with the guitar, or if there were any stains on the carpet. The New Testament church didn’t worry about the entertainment value of their services or the up keep of the building, because they didn’t exists there. The early church existed in the community (not in a building with a weekly service). They existed in the homes and in the market place. Might I add that they multiplied without these things and with a slightly smaller budget. People are critiquing the church much like they would critique their local Wal-Mart (is it clean, is it friendly, does it sell the right product). The church I read about in Acts is a whole lot less like Wal-Mart and more like the Marine Corp. Nobody ever left the Marine Corp because it wasn’t clean enough. Again, I blame church leaders for turning it into this.

Ronda — 01/09/15 1:08 pm

Been to many churches in my life and only once to many of them. However, often it has had to do with traveling or visiting an area or friend. Sometimes it's just plain been visiting a different church. Just because I never went back doesn't mean I did or didn't like it or any specific issue. Maybe I was just passing through. Maybe I was just curious about that church. In fact, most churches I choose to not attend, I visit several services before I choose, simply because any person or church can have a bad day. What happens this Sunday morning might be totally out of the norm for the particular church. So people who decide based on a single visit have not really given it a chance.

Vicki — 01/09/15 12:52 pm

"Let's greet one another in the Lord..." my mind to finishes that sentence with "...and share with everyone our flu and other viruses." I also counted one time, how many hands I shook from the front door until I sat down, not including greeting each other time, and it was 13. It was January and a bad flu year. I prefer just saying hello to those 13 people. Not to be unfriendly, but I don't wanna get sick and the elderly, etc., don't need to get sick.

Andrea — 01/09/15 12:09 pm

I went to a church one time as a visitor and had asked a few to not make a big deal out of it as they approached with big and big wide spread voices and so on... they smiled and said ok. and then in their true form brought out a basket with a first timers gift of sorts inside. I know it was in the norm for the church. And it made me feel uncomfortable. No I didn't go ack to sunday church there. I have gone to a few other churches .... my children have a favorite. They also have a Wednesday night favorite. I guess reading the article and all the comments. ... sometimes coming out of our comfort zone is where we find our most important education. In the Lord, in the world, In medicine. Everywhere really. So to say this reason or that reason is why one particular person did not return to a church is quite comical really. I'd say it wasn't a good fit, or maybe they were just not ready for that piece of the word that day. Or maybe the word hit them in a way no one else understood. You never know how the Lord is working. maybe God has a more important place for them to be and they don't even know it yet. All we can do is pray for them and keep doing what we think is the right thing. With our best intentions. Just like that church did for me that day with the basket of goodies.

leeannmayberry — 01/09/15 11:18 am

If you are a guest, it means you recognize your desire to worship with others in a structured setting. Whether you are aware of this or not, you are looking for something. Period. It doesn't mean you are friendly nor does it automatically mean you are a nice person. No one knows what hurdles you jumped just to show up. You might not be a day person, you might have germ issues, touching issues, children issues, religious issues, social issues. Be polite to that person without demanding a hug or a promise to return. Most important is that they notice "something" is different in this particular worship experience. That, Sir, is the presence of God's spirit.

John Jones — 01/09/15 9:25 am

Sam, I appreciate your reply. Our church is unusually friendly -it is the main comment we get on feedback from visitors. We are friendly in a genuine and positive sense. I do know that not everyone is a fan of the 'meet and greet' but at least we don't get carried away and 'greet one another with a holy kiss'! :) Articles like these are good to highlight potential issues but they are one-sided in that they do not offer solutions. Having people sing during the transition is a good idea, but using prayer to mask the movement may not be the best. Still plenty to think about!

Ryan — 01/09/15 9:06 am

As a church goer I can relate to a lot of these. There is a thing of too friendly. Newcomers want to sit and observe. They dont want to be pushed into meeting everyone. Churches dont take personalities into account. Let people meet on their own terms. Not the church's.

Jolene — 01/09/15 8:56 am

In response to Sam's comments about the choir, etc. moving to their seats during a prayer...... It has always bothered me when this happens. To me, it is a mis-use of prayer. Seems like prayer is being used as a coverup for what is going on. And it bothers me that people are not concentrating on prayer, which implies that it's not important. I could go on, but I think you get the idea. :)

chris — 01/09/15 8:54 am

many times things that bother you are more about you than the other person,so if the meet and greet bothers you it might be more of a situation that you are not a friendly or genuine person than it is that the others are. Maybe something you should pray about and work on.

Brian Humek — 01/09/15 8:27 am

So, if your church is friendly, guest won't return. If your church is unfriendly, guest won't return. I've been offended by meet and greet time before, but it was usually because no one greeted my wife and I, not the other way around.

Jim Nichols — 01/09/15 6:17 am

First time visitors pick up on critical and disparaging comments members have of each other without their being overt or public declarations. "If they treat each other this way," the guest rightly reasons, "they can't accept me!" People are tuned to these clues, because acceptance is a major factor.

babbs sherlock — 01/08/15 11:15 pm

I a not a fan of churches whete people raise their hands up in celebration and close their eyes. Its too much.

B4theWALL61 — 01/08/15 8:59 pm

Please forgive me, but this article smells a little like one of the boards from Family Feud. it does not strike me as scientific in the least, and it casts broad generalizations upon the "church" which may or may not be warranted. I would like to know the following: How many people were surveyed? Of those surveyed, how many responded? Was this one specific church property,congregation, and hour of service? Thank you. ~ Mark Hendersonville, Tennessee (just north of the buckle of the Bible Belt)

Cecil Kent — 01/08/15 8:52 pm

We are members of our church and have attended for years, but we still feel really uncomfortable with the whole shaking hands thing. It's just so uncomfortable and so fake. My wife almost always has to "go to the bathroom" right before this happens. We have always wondered why churches do this. We never experienced this in Arkansas, but every church we attended after moving to Texas 11 years ago insists on doing this. We just talked to the people we want to talk to before and will talk to them after service. No need to do it two songs into the service.

justsayin55 — 01/08/15 8:43 pm

wow, all the wrong reasons and alibis to not attend church

Amanda Turner — 01/08/15 8:28 pm

I have always enjoyed the greeting of one another no matter where I am. Your first 2 contradict each other. Don't like the greeting of one another,yet not friendly enough. Sounds like some hypocrites, much like the ones at church. Sounds like the guests you polled would fit right in at most churches.

David Spaulding — 01/08/15 7:55 pm

Don’t forget Pew hogging. I once attended a Presbyterian Church with my sister. I was away from my parish that week. We were both first time visitors. We got there early. There were just 2 other people seated when we arrived. We sat next to last pew/row on the end. Then, a couple came in and walked straight toward us. I thought they were going to greet us. When they got up to us, the woman said, “That’s where the Lewis’s sit.” We got up and moved up a pew. My sister asked the lady, “Does anyone sit here?” P-ss-d me off. I have a guy in my parish now that was out of town and visited a UM church. He was asked to move 3 times. The 3rd time he left

Jeff — 01/08/15 7:08 pm

Stand up and greet...agreed and sometimes they go on uncomfortably long as well. I'm very shy and like to observe at a new church. I enjoy smiles and hello's but I am kind of nervous and don't want to open up...just yet. I stopped going to a new church I really liked recently when they insisted I wear a name badge! I know it was well intended but for shy newcomers I left after the service and never returned even though I really liked the pastor.

Marilyn Flick — 01/08/15 6:14 pm

If you have a relationship with Christ you don't let too much stop you and I have never seen in any church I have been to some of these reasons!!!!!!

Toni — 01/08/15 12:22 pm

I understand all of them but I am thankful our church is not guilty of most of those. However, as far as the greeting goes, our church is over 1000 people, if we didn't " greet" we might not ever know if you are visiting.

Brian McCutchen — 01/08/15 12:08 pm

How many people responded to the survey?

Miss Vicki — 01/08/15 11:43 am

Excellent article. Yes, I can assure you that members telling guests that they are in their pew still happens. It happened to us three years ago when we visited the church we now attend regularly. Thankfully we didn't allow this to stop our attendance but I can certainly see how it would offend and embarrass other visitors because although we are mature believers it was very uncomfortable for us as well.

Kim — 01/08/15 10:41 am

you endure the first minute and a half and move on. There is far too much emphasis put on not having those movement times. It allows people in the pew a chance to wiggle or get a cough drop unwrapped as well. As long as it does not happen after each hymn, prayer, reading, announcement etc it should not be a big deal. Meet and greet times are often snub times even to some regular attenders. Second to fellowship coffee time these are the most universally unfriendly times at church.

Sam — 01/08/15 10:17 am

John, I can understand how that much movement can be a distraction and the use of the meet and greet can help to cover it up, also I myself am not a full time minister so what I'm about to present is based on what my current church does as well as my experiences with a church I grew up in. 1. This one is truly dependent on the people of your church if you have a smaller congregation and do not have a full time children's pastor, but the first thing I would suggest is to allow the children to start and finish their children's church separate from the adult services. I attended a church in the past that did the same thing as your sand it is definitely the more convenient option especially if the person working with them is in your choir or even your choir director, but I would still strive for this as a goal, you can have a volunteer sing songs with them, do a verse of the day, have a skit or puppet skit for them. For years at my church while I was a kid this is what we did, then our children's pastor who was part of the choir would come down when the choir was dismissed and would deliver the lesson/message he had prepared for that day. This allows you to work with your children on a level I can guarantee they have never experienced in the adult children's service. Your kids will be more engaged, and you might even be surprised to find your numbers go up. 2. Since my church already has our children in their own service we don't have that "issue" to work around; however we do still have 20-40 people (sometimes more) to move off the stage as we transition from the music portion of the service to the message... Here are the 2 ways we do this. Most every Sunday we have a special song between the music portion and the message portion of the service, during this song we have all the choir come down, after this song our pastor immediately starts a prayer and the rest of the singers that were part of that song leave the stage at this time. Prayer here is probably the biggest support for decreasing the distraction and it does it in more than one way. First and foremost it starts your congregation communicating with our Heavenly Father, Second it helps your choir members to focus on not being a distraction as they walk a cross the stage to their seats... Hope this helps, and if not just ignore it...

John — 01/08/15 6:20 am

When the choir joins the congregation in the pews, that is when we greet one another and the smaller kids are dismissed to children's church. There is a lot movement in those 2 minutes. If we did not shake hands, what could we do during that transition?

Recent Comments
Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 

Clarity Process

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The 4-Point Email: Sharing Best Practices with Your Team

Excellent guest service – whether in a local church, community non-profit, retail business or service industry – is really the compilation of lived-out best practices. Those benchmark behaviors that may be simple and common sense, but they are set as standards of practice by everyone in the organization.

Best practices can be produced in a board room.

  • Respond to questions within 48 hours.
  • Answer the phone before the fourth ring.
  • Do what you do with excellence.

It can happen: best practices can come from the board room. But not most of them.

Most best practices come about in the moment. A one-time occurrence implemented by one team member that gets discovered and, because of its impact on communicating value, is repeated as a norm throughout the entire team. That’s what happened with our guest services four-point report .

A couple years ago our volunteer usher leaders began to email each other following each weekend of services. By Monday afternoon an email was circulating, celebrating highlights and asking questions about how to solve a challenge that had popped up. The email created conversation that birthed an ongoing best-practice-making machine. The Four-Point Email was born. It’s this simple:

  •  Share a highlight from the weekend.
    • Anything positive counts.
    • A story about a guest interaction.
    • A high point from the service itself.
    • A nugget from a team member.
  •  Tell about a challenge the team encountered and how it was solved (if one existed at all).
    • crying baby in the middle of the service.
    • The need for more wheel chairs than we had on hand.
    • An overcrowded room with standing room only.
  •  Tell about a challenge the team encountered that you still need help with.
    • You dealt with it as best you could, but ultimately you know a long-term solution is still needed.
    • Not enough handicap seating.
    • Confusing signage.
    • Lack of information about an event or ministry.
  •  Finally, share the name of an up-and-coming leader.
    • We’ll all pray—for that person and for the leaders who will be pouring into him/her.
    • This person may not be named an apprentice yet, but we all have our eyes open and our mentoring radar on.

This four-point email keeps the communication going well past the weekend. Weekend teams are not isolated; they are united. Unique approaches are not limited to any one leader; they are sharedBest practices are not protected by a team; they are celebrated and practiced by the entire ministry. 

How are you establishing and implementing best practices?

(Revised excerpt from How to Wow Your Church Guests: 101 Ways to Make a Meaningful First Impression, Best Practice #94, pages 131-132)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Waltz

Mark has spent the past 25 years serving and leading people. While many of those years were focused within the local church, he brings marketplace experience from retail management, as well as career development and training. Regardless of his work or ministry context, he is about investing in people, because he believes people really matter. Think of him as a "people advocate." A sought after consultant and trainer, Mark has helped local churches of all sizes improve their guest services experience. Today Mark serves as executive pastor at Granger Community Church where for the past fourteen years he has been a unifying force, overseeing adult relational connections, including groups, guest services and volunteer strategies. As Granger’s chief guest services practitioner he still inspires teams of volunteers who make Granger Community Church a relaxed, rejuvenating and relevant experience for members and guests. Mark also oversees Granger’s multisite campuses.

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Recent Comments
Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3
 
— bruceherwig
 
Challenging and very good
 
— John Gilbank
 
Great work!!!!
 
— Kate Harel
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.