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?
What do you look for when you visit a church for the first time?