What is the first-time guest experience really like at your church?
That’s because once you see what an outsider sees, you can’t unsee it.
Serving in 100+ churches each year, we’ve started to notice some patterns.
What are the most common offenses? Here are the Top 10—the biggest issues with the weekend that we see the most often.
Keep in mind, these are only issues for churches that actually want to reach new people…
One last thing before I get to the list: Many of these issues show up in the “secret shopper” reports for large churches just as often as in small churches.
1. The Guest Services Area Is Staffed With People Who Don’t Engage With Newcomers.
The church feels like a private club. Guest service team members are more engaged with one another than with newcomers.
Guest services are the “first” in “first impressions.” If this team is off, my visit is off within minutes.
2. The Church Didn’t Welcome Me and Help Me Know What to Expect.
There’s a general lack of guiding visitors through the worship experience and explaining what to do in the different elements of the services, like singing, offering, etc.
Specifically welcoming new people is frequently missed. Someone yells “welcome” and then all of a sudden people start standing up, and then they sing. The only place I sing is in my car or in my shower. Guide me a little more. Invite me to sing, but give me permission to just take it in.
3. People on Stage Don’t Reflect the Church’s Target “Customer.”
The people on the platform should non-verbally communicate this is a safe place, a normal place, to the people you are trying to reach…just by being who they are.
Many times the platform presence doesn’t reflect that. A lot of churches miss the “75 percent rule”—having 75 percent of people on the platform in the same age range (or below) as the people you are trying to reach. (Credit to Lee Kricher in For a New Generation for defining it well).
4. The service order feels like an assembly of separate parts, rather than a cohesive experience.
Stop…start…stop…start… Nothing makes me check my watch more than a herky-jerky service. We sing two songs, there’s a video announcement, there are live announcements, we have a song for offering, message, another song, communion, closing announcement, benediction…
An unchurched person will be thinking, “Get me out. Land the plane.”
5. The Message Is Too Long.
Especially if there were already a lot of other service elements (see the last point), I’m not gassed up for a 45-50 minute message. Tighten it up, add a story, make it applicable and send me on my way.
6. Lack of Application or Next Steps in the Message.
I’ve given you an hour—give me something specific to take away that applies to my real life today.
7. Lack of Security in the Children’s Area.
If I can walk off the street into your kid’s area, that’s a problem.
My team often finds unlocked, dark rooms in the same hallway as kids programming, along with unattended external exits.
This is an issue we see far, far too often.
8. The Bulletins/Programs Are Too Crowded.
It looks like the Cheesecake Factory menu. What on earth am I supposed to choose to pay attention to?
This is a key first impression piece for a new person. It should welcome them, tell them what to expect and provide key info on kids ministry.
Unfortunately, many churches view it as the way to keep all the insiders informed.