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8 Ways to Ruin a First Church Visit

When I led a church consultation company, one of the more common facets of my consultation was an on-site visit to a worship service.

The person I hired to conduct the visit could know nothing about the church.

Ideally this “mystery guest” would be an unchurched person, so he or she could give an honest assessment from the perspective of someone who knows little about churches.

I requested the mystery guest evaluate different areas of the visit, but I was always most interested in the overall score.

They submitted a score of one to seven. The lowest score meant the visit was terrible, and they would not return under any circumstances. I recently retrieved some of these “one” reports. Inevitably there was one event that took place that made the visit so bad.

Let me share eight of those events in eight different terrible church visits.

1. I was asked to introduce myself in the worship service.

There were probably 150 or so present, so all the members knew I was a guest.

I had no choice but to speak up and tell them something about myself. I felt so uncomfortable standing up and speaking to everyone present.

2. I had to walk 50 yards in the rain.

There was no guest parking.

No one offered me an umbrella. Apparently the members got there early so they could get the best parking spaces in the inclement weather.

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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.