I was asked recently by Chris Thompson of the Alaska Daily News,
“When you visit a church, what do you look for?”
Chris makes unannounced visits to several area churches in Alaska and writing up is experience as a first time visitor at his Church Visits blog.
He and I continue in correspondence and communication since we met in the Anchorage airport when I taught there in Alaska in 2008.
My First Time Church Visitor Checklist
When I visit a church for the first time as a consultant, here are some things I look for:
- A church website — can I find the church? What does it tell me about the congregation? I don’t use a phone book anymore. If I can’t find the website, I try to call the church office to find out that information.
- “Guest Parking” stalls near the front entrance.
- Landscaping and physical appearance of the building.
- I observe and pay attention to accessibility issues (due to a friend being in a wheelchair, I notice these things).
- If it is a night service, is there adequate lighting in the parking lot and entrances?
- Greeters at the door — eye contact and near entrance, or are they just holding the door open in a boring job?
- Directional Signs — can I find what I want without feeling stupid asking for directions?
- Greeting at the sanctuary entrance, friendliness of ushers.
- Do ushers guide me to my seat or make me fend for myself?
- Interactions with members — do they engage me in conversation at any point?
- Pulpit Greeting – someone greeting visitors from the front.
- Quality issues from bulletin, sound, smells, lighting, and cleanliness.
- Quality and strength of sermon (as it’s still the central feature).
- I visit the coffee reception after the service to see who engages me in conversation.
I do not take any initiative to greet, but wait to be greeted.
This is a matter of personal choice.
But I also suspect that many first time church visitors are not so easily outgoing that they will initiate conversations themselves.
Let me ask you this?
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