8 Lessons from My Church Shopping Experience

8 Church Hospitality Lessons from Church ShoppingIn the past 12 months, our family experienced being a church shopper.

We share some of first time visitor experiences

After a few months, we have found a church home, a new church development that is not yet public.  We are training our welcome teams from the start and buildling welcome and hospitality into our DNA.  Here are some lessons I learned from all 8 visits (I still have yet to write up two)

1.  It is hard to be a first time church visitor.

Even though I’ve been a follower of Jesus over 30 years, going through this experience of being the first time church visitor for my own family is harder than I thought.

In the last 20 years, I’ve been in a church leadership team and have some kind of status.  But visiting churches as a non-staff member looking for a place for our family to give its life away has been harder than I thought.

Your church needs to recall that it’s not easy to be church shopping as a Christian family, nor will it be easy for the unchurched to find their way in.

2.  Your churched visitor has criteria they bring.

We come with a list of criteria we look for in a church.

As followers of Christ, having planted two multi-cultural churches as an associate pastor, served in youth ministry, and involved in cross cultural missions, we discovered that we had a list of criteria that we measured a church against.

Though we liked our experience at one church, it simply didn’t match a lot of our criteria.

Visitors will come and go as they seek churches that match some of their critera.  There is not much that a church can do about the whims of such visitors, myself included.

3.  A working church website is important.

Please do whatever it takes to get your broken church website current and working correctly.

I ruled out a few churches to visit simply because their website had dysfunctional websites with broken links, poor navigation, and hard to find information.

If you have social media like Twitter and Facebook, please make sure you answer questions submitted in those mediums.

Yvon Prehn released her take on 5 Church Website Essentials here.

Don’t let your church website prevent your visitors from coming.  (Read this article from Church Marketing Sucks).

4.  Can I make a friend?

We visited one church 6 times over the course of 3 months.

Their worship service was exciting.  Their teaching was biblical.  Their mission was Christ centered.

But, we found no easy way to make a friend, connect with a group, or get involved in a volunteer service project.

Our children visited the youth group for 6-8 weeks and eventually decided to drop out with our permission.

We couldn’t figure out how to make a friend.

There was no space to form a friendship on Sundays.

There was no clear way to us as a visitor where we could go an make a friend.

We tried one Saturday event, and at the end of it, still had no friends.

Put effort into designing a natural way for your newcomers to start making friends.  You might like this resource on assimilation.

5.  Creating a culture of hospitality takes work.

If those teens at the front door had captured the hospitality vision, at least one of them who saw our awkward entrance attempt at the locked doors could have mentioned to us that the entrance door is around the corner.

At small churches, members could have easily welcomed us as visitors, but left us feeling left out.

It takes a hospitality vision in the entire church to help visitors avoid interesting moments like that.

This audio resource might help you.  Casting and recasting a welcome vision is an ongoing work that takes work from pastors and church leaders of influence.  It’s not set it and forget it.

6.  A visitor packet can be a great place to include a simple gospel outline.

Your website and even your church visitor packet can be a great place to communicate the basics of the gospel.

Though every sermon should have a clear connection to a gospel presentation, you may want to include a simple gospel outline in your visitor packet.

If I was an unchurched visitor looking at this visitor packet, you’d be giving me an opportunity to understand the core of what Christianity is about, what Jesus did for me, and who Jesus calls me to be.

I’ve seen packets that include statements of faith (for church shopping believers).

These are too confusing for an unchurched, unsaved person.  Most are full of theological jargon that make no sense to those outside of your stream of Christianity.

7.  Make it easy to fill out a connection card.

I did a mystery visit recently to one of the local area churches.  It was good visit and they do many of the hospitality things right.

As part of their welcome greeting from the front, I was asked to fill out a connection card, turn it in for a free gift.

But I forgot a writing utensil.  I had no pen, no pencil, and I wasn’t going to sign by pricking my finger for blood.

There were no pencils/pens within my reach, nor in a pew rack or chair pocket.

There was no friendship pad available for me to steal a pencil.

I never filled out the visitor card.

Walk into your sanctuary or worship space this weekend and see if your visitor would be able to access a pen or pencil to fill out a visitor card.

8.  Invite your first time visitors back.

At many places, we left as anonymous as we came.

The was no process to register my attendance, no card to fill out, or no attempt to tell me what next week’s sermon was about.

I will not receive a follow up letter in the mail to invite me to return.

I will not receive a follow up invitation to a special gathering for new comers.

I will have no way of knowing what sermon topic is coming the following week to give me a reason to consider coming back.

I think these churches missed an opportunity – an opportunity to invite us to come back next week.

Consider this short webinar on visitor assimilation and learn some ways to start putting a system in place to follow up with church visitors.

Let me ask you this

If you have been recently shopping for a church, is there a lesson you can share that would add to this list?  Please do in the comments.

Faith Story Number 4: The So What Story

One challenge to shortening a personal testimony is to get at this core question:

What difference has Jesus made in your life?

This is the “So what” story that is unique and personal to you.

Faith Story Number 4 in the series Four Stories Every Christian must known

It is easier to see an example than it is to describe.

Check out this video (shared here as well)

More than one So What Story

What difference has Jesus made in your life?

This question is not only applicable for the moment of your conversion.

Even if you grew up in church and always knew that you were a follower of Christ, there are examples of transformation in your life.

The So What story also applies to the ongoing work of the Jesus in your life by the Holy Spirit.

For example, I have been a follower of Jesus since 1985.

I was a 15 year old teenager that didn’t have a lot of life experience.  I grew up in a healthy household with parents who loved me.

There have been marvelous works of transformation in my life.

  • Forgive a severe betrayal when I was in my late 20s
  • A sense of purpose and destiny.
  • Healing damaged emotions for hurtful events.
  • Creation of a healthy marriage.
  • Adventures in living into God’s will for my life.
  • Despair transformed to gratitude and hope.

The So What Story has a simple outline

CardBoard_Testimony

These stories have a basic before / after outline.

They are snippets that describe

  • Who you were before and who you are now.
  • What life was like before, and what life is like now.
  • What emotions you had before, and how they have been transformed.
  • The wounds you had in the past, and how they have been healed.
  • The addictions you struggled with and how you are experiencing victory now.

Before I met Jesus for the first time, I was searching for unconditional love.

Before I followed Jesus, I had no direction in my life.

Before I allowed Jesus to bring healing to my emotions, I lived in patterns defined by those experiences.

After I met Jesus, I found unconditional love.

After I followed Jesus, I found direction, purpose, and hope.

After I allowed Jesus to touch those wounded places, I experienced a indescribable joy and wholeness and new life.

You see them in the video above and in this video below.  As I watched this video, I was struck by the power of the cross.  Real lives changed by a real Jesus.

Can you reduce your testimony to two sides of a poster board?

Take the “So What” Story a Step further.

The two videos above capture the essence of a “So What” Story on two sides of a piece of cardboard.

What if you could reduce it to two words as in the video below:

What two words would you use to describe your transformation with Jesus?

I’ve experienced this life transformation first hand.

The label that Jesus changed for me:

  • Aimless to Directed
  • No Purpose to Purpose
  • Unable to Love Correctly to Beloved
  • Ignorantly Lost to Gratefully Found.

The So What story also answers this question:

Why is Jesus precious to you?

Jesus may be precious to you because He has forgiven you.

Jesus may be precious to you because He is guiding you in this life.

Jesus may be precious to you because He has healed you.

Jesus is Pastor, Savior, Friend, Healer, Redeemer, Friend, Bread of Life, Lord of All.

What image of Jesus speaks to you most deeply?

I bet there is one image of Jesus that speaks to you more than all the others.

That can help you answer the question that my friend Easum has asked:

What is it about your relationship with Jesus that your friend can’t live without?

What was your “So What Story”?

In the comment field, give a short summary (no more than 10 words) of the label transformation that Jesus worked in your life?

The Faith Story Series:

Resource

Of what value to you is your relationship with Jesus?

The more I explore the depths of that value, the meaning of that word, I notice something bubbling from inside of me.

I want to tell somebody.

Start here with this MP3 Download on Evangelism Training from the store ($10) to help you see where you need to grow.

It’s a 80 minute audio file that takes just a few minutes to download, but it may help you answer the question:

What can you do in the next 90 days to grow in your evangelism skills?

44 Scripture Bible Verses on a Godly Man — For Father’s Day

44 Scriptures and Bible Quotes for Father's Day

44 Scriptures that might be useful in a Father’s Day Sermon or Message

Genesis 2:18: The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

Genesis 2:24: That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Deuteronomy 24:5:  If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married.

Psalms 101: I will sing of your love and justice; to you, Lord, I will sing praise. I will be careful to lead a blameless life- when will you come to me? I will conduct the affairs of my house with a blameless heart. I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it. The perverse of heart shall be far from me; I will have nothing to do with what is evil. Whoever slanders their neighbor in secret, I will put to silence; whoever has haughty eyes and a proud heart, I will not tolerate. My eyes will be on the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me; the one whose walk is blameless will minister to me. No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence. Every morning I will put to silence all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer from the city of the Lord.

Psalms 119:105:  Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

Psalms 128:3: Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table.

Proverbs 1:1-4: The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young- let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance- for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.

Proverbs 5:15:  Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well.

Proverbs 5:18:  May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.

Proverbs 5:19:  A loving doe, a graceful deer? may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.

Proverbs 14:23: All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Proverbs 18:22: He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.

Proverbs 20:6: Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?

Proverbs 25:15:  Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.

Proverbs 31:10:  A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.

Malachi 2:15: Has not the one God made you? You belong to him in body and spirit. And what does the one God seek? Godly offspring. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of your youth.

Matthew 5:28:  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:32:  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Matthew 6:9-13:  “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’

Matthew 6:14-15:  For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 19:5: and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?

Matthew 19:9: I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

John 10:11-13: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

John 16:13: But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

Romans 12:1: Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God-this is your true and proper worship.

1 Corinthians 7:2-5:  But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband.   The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.  The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

1 Corinthians 16:13:  Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong.

Ephesians 4:31-32:  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 5:23:  For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

Ephesians 5:25-28: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,  and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Colossians 3:19:  Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10: For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.

1 Timothy 3:2:  Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,

1 Timothy 3:12: A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well.

2 Timothy 3:16:  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

Titus 1:6: An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient.

Hebrews 4:12:  For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Hebrews 13:4:  Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.

James 1:23-25: Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it-they will be blessed in what they do.

1 Peter 3:15:  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 4:8:  Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

2 Peter 1:21:  For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 3:7:  Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

1 John 2:27: As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit-just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Think about your church visitors on Father’s Day

Will they hear the gospel clearly that day?

Will the gospel impact their life?

Will the sermon and worship experience leave your visitors wanting to come back next week and bring a friend?

Story Number 3: The Gospel Story

My hope is in the Lord Who gave Himself for me,
And paid the price of all my sin at Calvary.
For me He died, For me He lives,

And everlasting life and light He freely gives

— Hymn, For me he died, for me he lives

God’s love has worked in your life

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us
Source: YouVersion

Jesus died for you.

His death paid the price for the forgiveness of your sins.

His death and resurrection paved the way for you to enjoy fellowship with God forever.

You have been reconciled to the Father and you can now discover the outrageous  love of the Father for you.

It’s the greatest story every told.

But we fail to tell the story

We think we know the gospel story.

But when we are put on the spot, in some random moment in a spiritual conversation, we grasp at fog.

We stumble for words.

We are not sure where to start.

We start off in one direction, and then change direction in the middle of a thought.

Most of us have fallen short in mastering being able to tell the greatest story ever told.

We might be good at telling stories

But telling people the actual gospel leaves us speechless or disorganized.

Tell the gospel story well in real life

I once challenged a teen in my youth group to tell the gospel story to a friend.

She was nervous about it, but she knew the major movements of the gospel story.

  • God loves us, but sin separates us from God
  • God’s love didn’t leave us without a solution.
  • God demonstrated his love in Christ’s death and resurrection.
  • That if we believe and confess, receive him, we become a follower of Christ.

As her gospel sharing conversation proceeded, even with conversational detours, she confidently moved through them.

At the end, her friend simply said:

No one has ever shared it so clearly before.  Now I know what it means when they say “Christ died for me.”

How could this teen tell the story so well?

Even when there were conversational detours?

It is because she had memorized a gospel story and mastered the outline.

We reviewed one quarterly in our youth group.

I made everyone practice it on a regular basis.

Because she knew the outline, she could calmly and clearly communicate.

Lesson learned the hard way

A self declared non-Christian friend asked me one time:

“Chris, what is the Gospel?”

I had the perfect opportunity to explain the gospel simply and clearly.

Instead, my explanation was a clear as the muddy Mississippi River during a flood.

After that moment, I decided that I needed to learn a script so that I’d not be caught unprepared again.  In God’s sovereignty, my friend eventually came to faith, but certainly not because of my eloquently clear presentation.

Action Steps

To master this conversational story, find one of the gospel scripts and master it.

Here are a handful of gospel scripts.

I personally have chosen the bridge illustration

The Key to Using a Gospel Story

The key to using gospel scripts is to know ONE “inside out”so that your explanation is crystal clear, but doesn’t seem scripted.

Meaning that you can use it

  • at any given moment,
  • can “do it in your sleep”
  • without having to think too hard.
  • without hyperventilating
  • without forgetting where you are out.
  • without a fear of lack of words or not knowing what to say.

Once you are deeply familiar with one, then add another one to your skill set.

The Problems with memorized gospel stories

1.  Theological debates

Some will find fault with the theology of certain gospel presentations.

No script is able to capture the full richness of the gospel in 3 or 4 propositional points.

While I think all of us would agree on the main points, some of the theological nuances will be points of difference.

For example, I know people who think the Four Spiritual Laws is wrong because it starts in the wrong spot.

Others believe the gospel is all about law and sin, and so the starting point must be the 10 commandments.

Each of these scripts deal with the problem of sin, but how they discuss sin is often related to some theological presuppositions.

For example, read are you a Genesis 3 Christian?  Would sin have been the best starting point for her?

Or for a different point, where would you start the gospel with a member of an indigenous tribe who doesn’t have a Western worldview, but worships an alligator?

The solution is to find a gospel version that fits your theological stream that you can be comfortable with.

2.  Using scripts by rote memory.

Following a script as exactly as possible can be as impersonal as calling a 1-800 number for customer service.

The customer service person in the remote call center has a script to follow, who doesn’t cares what you really need or are really asking.

For the user who is following the script as strictly as possible, the give and take of the conversation messes it up.

This leads to interior anxiety and frustration because it’s out of line.

I’ve talked with some who think a presentation doesn’t work (as if the gospel presentation is a magic formula) unless it’s followed exactly, which means there can be no give and take of a discussion.

I’ve encountered others who place so much emphasis on the right presentation, that their “conversations” are actually monologues led by their own rhetorical questions.

When we follow a script, we have to listen to the “customer” (don’t get carried away with my analogy) and respond appropriately with love. Conversational evangelism is sharing the good news of the gospel, not a canned product placement pitch.

Let me ask you this

Which script of those listed above do you know inside and out?

If you don’t know one, commit this week to learn one.

Want to watch more of my teaching on Spiritual Conversations?

This teaching set (download or DVD) can help you have more effective conversations with people when you discern where they are in their spiritual journey.  Knowing where they are can help relieve the pressure of any conversation about Christ.  Click the banner to read more.

Effective Conversations: Clues to Better Personal Evangelism DVD

Six Evangelism Styles – A Video Summary

Lee Strobel shares a quick video synopsis of the 6 styles of personal evangelism.

The material came from Becoming a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels and Mark Mittleberg.

In the book, Becoming a Contagious Christian, Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg point out that there are a variety of different evangelism styles.

  • Confrontational: Peter, Acts 2.
  • Intellectual / Philosophical: Paul, Acts 17.
  • Testimonial: Blind Man, John 9
  • Invitational: Woman at the Well, John 4
  • Serving: Dorcas (Tabitha), Acts 9: 36ff
  • Signs and Wonders: First Corinthians 2:1-5.

To this list, I would add “Chance Conversations,” based on Phillip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

The greatest contribution this book makes is the recognition of various evangelism styles.

This list has become a fountainhead for a lot of other teaching.

For example, it is the foundation for Jeffrey Johnson’s work, “Got Style?”, which helps your church decide the best evangelism course based on it’s personality.

My own Evangelism Teaching on DVD

DVD from Evangelism Coach on How to have more effective Evangelism Conversations

I have a DVD set (or digital download) that focuses on a conversational style evangelism that would be effective in:

  • casual conversation between friends
  • causal conversation between strangers
  • a relational style evangelism
  • a friendship style evangelism

Read more about the Effective Evangelism Conversations in the store

It will show you how to have good faith sharing conversations no matter what your style.

Lee Strobel shares on Different Evangelism Styles