It was Easter Sunday.
We attended a traditional church in a mainline tradition.
It was the traditional service, one of 3 main services on a Sunday morning. Full robes were worn by the hand bell team and the full choir. The pastor wore a suit and tie. We sang the awesome hymns of Easter accompanied by the choir and full organ.
We were an invited guest.
A first time visitor invited us to join them on their second visit to the same church.
A Good First Time Church Visit.
This church gave our family a good first time experience.
- Greeters were friendly.
- Smiling church ushers gave us a bulletin, though we sat ourselves without much problem.
- During passing of the peace we were greeted with smiles and handshakes.
- It was clear the musicians and singers loved to sing the awesome hymnody of Easter.
The church had helpful aids for the congregational signing. They had large screen that showed all the hymn words. The call and response liturgical readings were on display as well as the communion liturgy.
A leader shared the logistics for how to proceed to the front to receive communion, which made it easy for us to participate. Since the juice was served in little cups at the communion stations, a basket was there for convenient disposal.
The people in the choir, the lead liturgist, and the pastor all seemed genuinely thrilled to be there. As they sang, it’s clear that worship is personal for them, not just songs to sing that are supposed to be sung on Easter Sunday.
The sermon was a clear telling from the Bible and methodically walked through the passage. The pastor’s preaching ability is clearly a strength of this church.
What could have helped the first time church visitor.
1. Don’t launch the service with an apology.
The opening liturgist called us to worship with an apology for not being someone else.
As a visitor, I don’t know who that someone else is, and I didn’t find his name in the bulletin. While every long term attendee might know that you were the unexpected morning leader, just lead, don’t start with an apology. It creates an “insider” feeling that leaves your first time visitor confused.
You are in the role of liturgist for the morning. Step into it and enjoy it.
2. Fix lack of signage from rear parking lot to the sanctuary entrance.
This church has 3 different sanctuaries.
Given that it was Easter Sunday with very high attendance, we had to park in the farthest lot.
To find the sanctuary, we followed other people walking where they knew.
There were not enough signs to let us know where the entrance was.
We have been to other churches that had clear signage at every turn.
From our spot in the parking lot, we had to make 3 or four turns to find the front door. Signs at each one of those turns would potentially ease a first time visitor’s concern about finding their way.
Take your own sign audit and see if you need to add a sign or two.
3. Explain Christianeese
During the service, my friend asked,
“What is the doxology? What does it mean?”
On high attendance days, consider your first time visitors who may not know what some of your liturgical words are. You may have an explanatory paragraph for terms that are not common now.
4. Invite your first time visitors back.
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 the church 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?
What did you do to give a welcome to your guests on Easter Sunday?