Thanks to Thom Rainer for this guest blog post.
I have written rather extensively on first-time church guests at this blog. Even more importantly, I have received hundreds of responses from church leaders, church members, and church guests about this issue. I took the opportunity to look specifically at the comments from first-time guests. After completing this exercise, I was surprised to find that the preferences of these guests can be categorized into six simple groups.
Keep in mind, you are hearing only from the self-identified first-time guests. Each category has one or more direct comments I received. Here are their six simple requests.
- Be genuinely friendly. “I can tell when someone has a genuine smile and a genuine concern for me.” “I don’t like the stand-and-greet time because it seems like many of the members are forced to be friendly.” “I love churches where people are smiling.”
- Don’t put me on the spot. “Don’t ask me to raise my hand.” “Don’t stand up and greet each other while I’m asked to sit down.” “Please don’t ask me to introduce myself before the entire church.”
- Provide clear directions. “Make certain your websites have the church address and the times of worship services on the home page.” “Have clear signage in the parking lot when I enter.” “Please have clear signage once I enter the building.”
- Please be empathetic. “I am a single mom with four young children. Please understand it’s a struggle to get to church.” “I am an introvert who is scared to death when I visit a church. Please don’t invade my personal space too much.” “I can’t afford the clothes many people can. Please don’t look down on me.”
- Show joy in your lives. “I came to church expecting people to have obvious joy in their lives.” “Your ushers look like grumpy old men and women.” “There was something intangible about the third church I visited. I never went to another church after that.”
- “Don’t be rude.” “Don’t tell me I’m in your seat. If you do, I will be happy to get up and never return.” “Don’t make me walk over you to get to a seat.” “Why did they tell me I didn’t look like I belonged here?”
I wonder what it would be like if all of our first-time guests found our churches joyous, courteous, informative, and friendly. Think about how God might bless them and us. It’s really not that difficult. These first-time guests are only asking for basic courtesies and considerations.