It’s a fundamental rule of life, that people tend to avoid unpleasant experiences.
It’s true for people, businesses, and to an even greater extent, churches. Normal people are leery of visiting a church. They’ve visited church before and it was unpleasant. If you annoy them when they show up, they won’t come back because it’s far easier to sleep in on Sunday.
Does Radio Shack need a phone number before they they sell me batteries? Does the local Christian bookstore need to sell me testamints” with my book? (Does my candy have to be saved, or are Devildogs okay?) Because they unintentionally annoy me, I buy batteries at Target and Christian books at Amazon.
Churches do the same thing. Without realizing it, we hang the “visitors not welcome” sign. Here are a couple ways I’ve seen many churches run off visitors unintentionally.
Poor Website – In the digital age, your website is your front door. The vast majority of your guests “visit” you there before they show up. If it is inadequate or non-existent, people won’t come find you. Period. If it’s hard to find basic information about when and where your services are, you annoy people who want to learn about you. You tell them they are not welcome before they pull into the parking lot…so they don’t.
Poor Signage – Your regulars know where the nursery is and how to find a bathroom. They even know how to beat the crowd out of the parking lot so they get to Golden Corral first, but visitors don’t. Guests need directional cues on where to go. If you don’t have obvious, clear, and eye-catching signage, you make a visit to your church hard on new people. It starts in the parking lot if you have more than one door. Direct them on where to enter and what is inside. Point them to the locations they need to find. Make it easy. Better yet, show them with an warm, engaging guide. If not, they won’t “find their way around,” they’ll just find their way out.
Poor Preparation – Sometimes churches appear to not expect anyone to come, let alone guests. Just like at your house, dirty bathrooms, unkempt public spaces, and a lack of hospitality send the message to visitors they are not welcome. Your service is your “open house” so you have to expect and be prepared for visitors in order to make their experience great. It requires people and focus. People don’t come back if no one greets, guides, or connects them.
If you need help, Mark Waltz has written the definitive book on creating great first impressions for guests at church.
- What are ways you’ve seen churches annoy people?
- How many people skip your church because of annoyance?
- What things show you a church is expecting guests?