Someone had a really bad experience visiting a church – so bad they shared it on twitter.
I blacked out the church name. The visitor card pictured to the right came across my Evangelismcoach twitter feed this week.
I hope your church doesn’t receive visitor cards like this.
Church Visitors want a good welcome experience.
Hospitality ministries are not the only reason people come back.
Your hospitality program is a contributing factor in why people connect with a church.
- 50% of the unchurched choose a church because of friendliness of its members.
- 45% of the churched visitors choose a church because of friendliness of its members.
Over the last several years, I have visited several churches in different states (US) and countries in Latin America.
- English language congregations,
- Spanish Language congregations in 9 countries, and
- Two Mandarin speaking congregations.
Denominations vary from independent, Presbyterian, Christian Reformed, Pentecostal, Salvation Army, Church of God General Conference, United Methodist, along with other flavors of Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.
Worship styles varied from traditional to contemporary, contemplative to highly celebratory, including one church that nearly danced for the entire hour of upbeat fast tempo celebration songs.
My experience as a first time church visitor in all these different contexts continue to bring me fresh ideas on how to welcome church visitors into your midst.
Can I visit your church to measure your hospitality?
I am often asked if I could make a visit to evaluate the hospitality program of a particular congregation.
Churches have even offered to pay me to make a secret visit to measure the welcome I receive. They assume that my experience will give me the eyes to see what they are missing in their hospitality system.
While that may be true, I can’t make hospitality assessment visits to everyone who asks.
Rather, let me give you two ways to have your church hospitality experience evaluated for free (or maybe for the price of a cup of coffee).
1. Ask a unchurched friend of yours to make a visit.
I assume you have friends who don’t go to church.
If not, you need to go make some.
Approach one of your friends and ask them to visit your church so that you can learn about how your church really welcomes people.
Allow them to pick any Sunday in the next 4 weeks. This will give them a sense of safety or freedom to know that a particular sermon wasn’t aimed at them, or that you don’ t have a secret motive to have them hear a particular sermon.
Ask them to keep your friendship a secret during the visit, if possible. Don’t seek them out and introduce them to all your friends. Allow their visit to be as anonymous as possible.
The goal is for them to experience what a first time church visitor feels like when they make their first visit to your campus.
2. Ask a churched friend of your to make a visit.
Ask a friend who attends a different church, and maybe in a different Christian tradition, to visit your church one Sunday in the next six weeks. They may need to make sure their own responsibilities at their own church are covered, so give them time to make arrangements.
As above, ask them to keep your friendship as anonymous as possible.
Because they are churched, they will likely pay attention to your greeters and ushers, and make comparisons to what they think they experience at their own church.
Invite them to share and reflect with you.
After your friends make their visits, invite them to reflect with you about their experience of your hospitality program and welcome.
Listen to the stories on their experience and feel free to ask. For example:
- Did anyone say hello to them?
- Did they leave knowing someone’s name?
- Were they invited to come back for the next visit?
- Did an aggressive person recruit them for a church program, like the choir or finance committee?
- Were there questions that your visitor had that they couldn’t get an easy answer to?
- Did they feel safe?
- Did they feel valued?
- Could they find their way to their seat without much problem?
- Did they easily learn what your church offers their children?
- Was there anything that they didn’t understand?
- Did they feel lost or confused or out of place in the worship service at any time?
As you talk with your friend, you’ll likely notice that unchurched visitor and the churched visitor have different perspectives. As you talk with them, your curiosity will cause other questions to come to mind .
As you listen, you will get ideas of some of the hidden barriers that your congregation puts up.
Take it one step further
Take this exercise a step further and have each member of your hospitality committee ask two or three people to make such a visit.
Then meet as a committee after you have debriefed with your friends and share the ideas and insights that come from this free research.