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Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

The sermon starts in the parking lot, and the impression you make for your guests on Sunday morning during the first 10 minutes will be indelible.

Technology and The Church

Leveraging technology for ministry can be an incredible blessing. But it can also be fraught with problems and pitfalls. Learn how to use technology well.

Vision and Leadership

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot. Faith filled vision, leadership and risk are key ingredients for ministry.

Preaching and Communication

You know and understand how challenging it is to communicate. It is hard to get and capture people's attention. Learn how to communicate effectively.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative means asking the right questions and making new associations. Discover new and creative ideas for your ministry.

Showing posts with label Guests. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guests. Show all posts

Is your church asking too much info from first-time visitors?

When a first time visitor comes to your church, how much information do you ask from them? You may assume that because someone has visited your church that they are willing to simply divulge as much information as possible to you. Yet a first-time guest to your church may not be as willing to do so as you think, in fact, many first-time visitors may be simply there to check out your church with relative anonymity. Or perhaps there is general concern that divulging too much information may invite unwelcomed communication from the church - communication that they are not ready yet to receive.

So the question is, how much information should you request from a first-time visitor? What information is enough?

What information does your church ask of your guests and visitors?

5 Simple Yet Effective Ways To Improve A Guest Experience

Often times there is content within Ministry Best Practices that is worth repeating, today we would like to re-share with you a post that reminds you to always be preparing and to be on alert for "company" coming on Sunday mornings. Guests will be visiting and coming to your church, yet are you ready, alert and prepared for them?

from the Ministry Best Practices archives

Don't allow your church website to become out-of-date and be hard to navigate. Make sure important facts such as service times/location & directions/what to expect are clear and easy to find.

Make sure you have enough parking lot volunteers to show people where to park and where to enter the church. It is often said that the "sermon" starts in the parking lot - and it is true that the first impression and assistance given in the parking lot will help set the tone for the visitor's experience.

Have adequate exterior signage that identifies buildings and points a visitor in the right direction. It is ok to make your church look like the bat cave...can't have enough signage.

Make sure your indoor signage is clear and not confusing in which it uses ministry names that a visitor won't understand. Avoid jargon and clever ministry names without explaining what they are/who they are for. For example, don't just post signs for "Discovery Cove" without posting more info about what age group that ministry is for.

Smile, Say Hello & Talk to Visitors! This is everyone's responsibility - not just staff and certain volunteers.

And a Bonus!

Make sure you have clear, concise and compelling information about the church to give to visitors before they leave. Make a point to put that info in their hands. But don't make the mistake by feeling compelled to give them every piece of information about every program about every facet of the church. Keep it simple! Just give them enough information to tell them who you are, what you believe, about your mission, and to point them toward the direction of what's next in their journey to become a part of your community.

Should You Put The Kibosh On The Church Stand & Greet?

Church Greeters
Thom Rainer recently hit a nerve. He recently discovered that many people just don't like the church stand and greet on Sunday mornings. Apparently the opinions were pretty strong. This is what he discovered.

from Thom Rainer:

So what is it about this stand and greet time that many guests don’t like? Here are the seven most common responses, again listed in order of frequency.

  1. Many guests are introverts. “I would rather have a root canal than be subjected to a stand and greet time.”
  2. Some guests perceive that the members are not sincere during the time of greeting. “In most of the churches it should be called a stand and fake it time. The members weren’t friendly at all except for ninety seconds.”
  3. Many guests don’t like the lack of hygiene that takes place during this time. “Look, I’m not a germaphobe, but that guy wiped his nose right before he shook my hand.”
  4. Many times the members only greet other members. “I went to one church where no one spoke to me the entire time of greeting. I could tell they were speaking to people they already knew.”
  5. Both members and guests at some churches perceive the entire exercise is awkward. “Nowhere except churches do we have times that are so awkward and artificial. If members are going to be friendly, they would be friendly at other times as well. They’re not.”
  6. In some churches, the people in the congregation are told to say something silly to one another. “So the pastor told us to tell someone near us that they are good looking. I couldn’t find anyone who fit that description, so I left and didn’t go back.”
  7. Not only do some guests dread the stand and greet time, so do some members. “I visited the church and went through the ritual of standing and greeting, but many of the members looked just as uncomfortable as I was. We were all doing a required activity that none of us liked.”
(ht: Thom Rainer)

What do you think? Should we put the kibosh on the church stand and greet?

5 Ways Your Church Can Improve A Visitor's Welcome

Don't allow your church website to become out-of-date and be hard to navigate. Make sure important facts such as service times/location & directions/what to expect are clear and easy to find.

Make sure you have enough parking lot volunteers to show people where to park and where to enter the church. It is often said that the "sermon" starts in the parking lot - and it is true that the first impression and assistance given in the parking lot will help set the tone for the visitor's experience.

Have adequate exterior signage that identifies buildings and points a visitor in the right direction. It is ok to make your church look like the bat cave...can't have enough signage.

Make sure your indoor signage is clear and not confusing in which it uses ministry names that a visitor won't understand. Avoid jargon and clever ministry names without explaining what they are/who they are for. For example, don't just post signs for "Discovery Cove" without posting more info about what age group that ministry is for.

Smile, Say Hello & Talk to Visitors! This is everyone's responsibility - not just staff and certain volunteers.

Anatomy Of A Church Conflict

Over at the 9Marks blog Michael McKinley has a great piece on the anatomy of a church conflict from Mike Minter‘s seminar he attended. Here’s the breakdown:
  1. An offense occurs. 
  2. A biased view of the offense is shared with friends. 
  3. Friends take up the offense. 
  4. Sides begin to form. 
  5. Suspicion on both sides develop. 
  6. Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion. You can be sure they will find it. 
  7. Exaggerated statements are made. 
  8. In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said. 
  9. Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other. 
  10. Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface. 
  11. Integrity is challenged. 
  12. People call each other liars. 
  13. Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus. 
  14. Many are hurt. 
Have you ever been involved in serious church conflict? Were you able to pull it out of it's tailspin and bring reconciliation and healing? 

photo from Ben

When Churches Lie - REAL Church Postcards

Do you ever find your mailbox stuffed with those slick and well produced "church postcards" inviting you to their awesome church?!  What would those postcard invitations look like if we stripped away the hype and actually told the truth?  EchoHub has done just that and they have posted some hilarious examples.  Here are a select few below:

(ht: EchoHub)

Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep

from Steve Kryger:

I’ve noticed that a lot of church websites promise a ‘warm welcome’ to potential guests.

This may be well intentioned, but I don’t think it’s wise.

Despite your best efforts, the newcomer may not receive a warm welcome:

All of your greeters may get sick or decide to take the week off.

The newcomer may sit next to someone who for whatever reason, isn’t feeling like providing any warmth to anyone that week. The person who is depressed. Whose wife just left them. Who had a terrible morning with their kids. Who is not sure what they believe anymore.

Churches are messy places – full of broken people in the process of being rebuilt into the likeness of their Saviour.

The church isn’t the Apple store. You can’t pay people to ensure a consistent experience.

Promises create expectations that must be met. Therefore, steer clear of making promises about warm welcomes, or anything else that cannot be completely controlled (which is just about everything in a church service!).

What are your thoughts? Can a church, especially on their website, communicate that they are a warm, welcoming church without over promising and setting up potentially unmet expectations?

Church Visits From Hell

Remember on Sunday mornings you should be preparing for company!  People who are new to your church are bound to find their way into your Sunday worship service and therefore you should always be aware and conscientious on how your church, facilities, and experience looks and is perceived by first time guests.

Thom Rainer shares these worst guest experiences gathered from his years of consulting churches and doing on-site "mystery-shopping" evaluations.  Here are some of the worst of the worst:

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 me. I felt so uncomfortable standing up and speaking to everyone present.”

I had to walk fifty 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.”

The preschool area was dirty and not secure. I took my two-year old with me, but I would not leave her in the church’s preschool area. You could tell they didn’t care about the cleanliness and the safety needs of little children. So I took my child to the worship service. That proved to be another headache.”

Everyone talked in code. I had no idea what the preacher and the members were talking about. What in the heck is a WMU? What is a time of intercessory prayer? I figured out the responsive reading thing when I saw people reading from their hymnals.”

Someone told me I was sitting where their family sits. That really ticked me off. I didn’t see a reserved sign there. If I was not getting paid to do this, I would have said a few words to them and walked out of the service before it ever began.”

No one spoke to me. They certainly spoke to people they apparently knew, but I was not a part of their cliques. I felt badly just being there. I wanted to get up and leave on the spot.”

The preacher screamed the whole time. He had one tone and one volume: loud! Why do these preachers think their voices and their decibels have to change when they begin preaching? It seems so inauthentic. To top it off, I had a terrible headache after enduring 45 minutes of his screaming.”

They had a business meeting during the worship service. Now that was awkward. I really got uncomfortable when some of the members began disagreeing. It was tense. I will never, ever, ever go back there again.”

How To Invite To Church

via Shawn:

ONE of the mistakes I think we Pastors make as much as any other is telling people WHAT to do on the weekends without showing them HOW to do it. For instance, so many pastors every weekend tell the members of their congregations to "go share Jesus with the lost". However, I am convinced that most of the time, people don't know HOW to share Jesus with the lost! That's so broad! As Pastors, we've got to do a better job, not just telling people WHAT to do, but showing them HOW to do it. IN honor of this truth, I wanted to share THE TOP 10 WAYS TO INVITE SOMEONE TO CHURCH WITHOUT GETTING PUMMELED:

1. Send a co-worker an e-invite from our church website, with a note that says: "Just thought you might connect with what our church is going to be talking about this weekend."

2. Send a link to one of our church's online sermons with a note that says: "When I heard this message, I thought about what you've been going through..."

3. Take a worship guide in to work with the message series title on it and say: "When I heard this message title, I thought of you."

4. Have a BBQ and invite some co-workers or friends over to eat. Here's the only criteria for the INVITATION list: They can't be going to church anywhere.

5. Invite someone to lunch on Sunday (or dinner on Saturday) and then say: "Hey, would you guys be interested at all in meeting us at our church beforehand, and THEN going to eat?

6. Think of someone who had a tough year this past year, drop them an enail or a phone call and simply say: "when I was listening to my pastor;s message this past week, I thought about you and prayed for you (IF you actually prayed for them)."

7. Invite a family friend's child over to spend the night with our children on Saturday Night and then ask the family's permission to take their child on to church with you and drop them off afterward. If our Children's Ministry rocks, this child will be one of Jesus' biggest advertisers afterward!

8. Just say: "Hey, man, what would I have to do to talk you into giving God and the church one more shot this week?"

9. Just say: "Hey, are you going to church anywhere right now? Why don't you come hang out with me this weekend at our church?"

10. Say: "You would not believe what my church is going to be doing this next weekend..."

Not just WHAT, but HOW...DOES THIS HELP AT ALL??? 

 (ht: shawnlovejoy)

It's NOT All About You!

Too often many of us approach church like we're a consumer or a guest - that our purpose is simply there to have a good experience, we think that church is all about US!  But rather than behaving like a guest perhaps we should consider the posture of being a host, there to provide that experience for other people - especially those who may be visiting our church for the first time.

In his book The Welcoming Congregation,  author Rev. Brinton writes:
Whether congregations build coffee shops or offer ESL classes, it is critical that church members begin to think of themselves as hosts. This is an enormous step for any of us, but it is the key to making good decisions about creating appropriate sites for hospitality. Unfortunately, we often go to church with the attitude of a guest, not a host—we are concerned more about ourselves than about those who visit with us. Consider this mindset: as guests, we are focused primarily on having a good time. We enter the church, and look for our friends. We pass personal judgment on the furniture, decor, and feel of the place. We sit where we want to sit, with little regard to making room for others. We listen to the church’s music, and decide whether we enjoy it or not. As guests, we are basically consumers, concerned about our personal comfort. The experience is all about us. 
How different it is to be a host. In this role, we are focused primarily on serving others. We greet our guests at the door, and look to connect them with people they would enjoy. We make sure that the church is set up in a welcoming way—decorated appropriately, well-lighted, and conducive to people getting to know one another. We sit in places that will leave room for others, and help them to feel comfortable. We pick church music that our guests would like, even if it is not our favorite. As hosts, we are concerned about the comfort of others. The experience is all about them.
How would this perspective not only positively alter our own experience Sunday morning, but also that of those who visit our church for the first time?

Why It's Important To Pay Attention

via Inside North Point

“First impressions can greatly impact the emotion consumers feel for a brand. What are first impressions like for your customers?” - The Disney Institute via Twitter

First impressions of your church and Sunday worship are important to guests. Therefore it is so important that you get your head out of the clouds and pay attention to the right things. You want to be able to look at them with fresh eyes. Here are some things to consider that will help you answer the question: What are first impressions like for your guests?

1. Pay attention to your physical environments:
  • architectural design
  • landscaping
  • lighting
  • color
  • signage
  • design on carpet
  • texture of surfaces
  • focal points and directional signs
  • music/ambient noise
  • smells
  • furniture
  • floor plan
2. Pay attention to your volunteers:
  • Where are they?
  • How easily identifiable are they?
  • What do they have permission to do and say?
  • Are they sensitive to guests?
  • Do they know how to spot a first-time guest?
  • What are they wearing?
3. Pay attention to your systems.

Systems are how you do things or how you ask people to do things. In churches, systems are things like . . . how someone registers for camp, how a new volunteer signs up to serve, how someone signs up for online-giving, how parents enroll their children into a class, how someone joins a small group, etc. 

Make sure your systems are…
  • clear – This is what I do.
  • easy – This is simple to do.
  • results – This gets me where I want to go.
(ht: Inside North Point)

Top Ten Ways You Can Draw Me To Your Church

You want me to come and stay at your church? Then...

10. Show me Jesus

9. Smile

8. Serve me

7. Help me to get involved and connected

6. Look me in the eye

5. Ask my opinion

4. Be clear and anticipate my questions

3. Remember my name

2. Call me (without asking me for something)

1. Be yourself

All of these together boil down to one simple message: Show That You Care.

Who Will You Invite This Easter?

You can purchase the video to show at your church this Sunday.

Are You A Welcoming Church?

Updated from the MinistryBestPractices Archives: 

Are you a welcoming church? Perhaps you think you are...but because you've been coming to your church for some time and your opinion or perspective may be skewed.  Try to enter into the experience of a guest on Sunday morning. Ask God to give you fresh eyes on the Sunday morning experience.  How do think that a guest may feel when they enter your church?
  1. Do you provide an appropriate welcome to those visiting during your Sunday worship service? 
  2. Do you have the expectation that people will be visiting your church every Sunday?
  3. Is there adequate signage around the church for parking, bathroom and nursery?  
  4. Are people at your church able and prepared to go beyond "Hi, what's your name? Where do you live?" in a conversation with a guest? 
  5. Are people at your church willing to stop being driven by the TASKs on Sunday morning and stop long enough to have a conversation with a guest/visitor? 
  6. Do people smile at guests when speaking? 
  7. Do people make eye contact with the guests when speaking to them? 
  8. When someone is hurting, are you and others at your church willing to go beyond the "I'll pray for you" and actually stop and pray for that person? 
  9. Are you and others willing to accept and approach people who are different from you? 
  10. Are you truly a welcoming church?

Lower The Barrier For Visitors To Your Church With Social Media

From Internet Toolbox for Churches: "In this episode of the Internet Toolbox for Churches show, I discuss 4 ways your church can “lower the barrier to entry” for a potential visitor by using social media (why would you not want to make it as easy as possible for someone to walk through your doors?)."

You can GO HERE to listen to the podcast

(ht: Internet Toolbox for Churches)

5 Tips For Remembering Names

If you are in ministry and part of the church then you are always meeting new people - especially on Sunday mornings.  But how can you effectively remember people's names and prevent their name being lost to you only seconds after you meet them?  Here are some tips excerpted from Wisebread.

Look for Distinguishing Features
When I meet someone, I always look for something unique in the way they look or act, and try to make an association with that feature and their name.

Associate a Name With an Occupation
Usually people tell you what they do for a living. I find that it's often easier to remember occupations than names because there is always a story to that occupation. All you have to do is to weave a person's name into your mental image of that person's occupation.

Repeat and Reintroduce
When you just meet someone new, try to say their name a few times while talking to them. Repetition always aids your memory, so introduce that person to some of your friends. You can also ask people to spell their names if you don't have nametags. If someone has an unusual name, it is especially helpful to get the pronunciation correct by repeating the name a few more times.

Associate Real Words With Names
Many names aren't real dictionary words, and that makes them harder to remember. If you see a person's name and associate it with a real word, somehow it is much easier to remember. For example, when I hear a name like Jaden, I think of the word "jade," and I associate the color green with that person. When I hear "Gladys," I think of gladiolas and associate that flower with the person's face.

Use Social Media
If you happen to like people you just met, you could friend them on Facebook or Twitter, where they will have pictures of themselves and links to their personal sites. When you have faces and names show up on your social media feed, then it is much easier to remember who they are when you see them in person.

What are your tips for remembering names of new people you meet? What do you do when you can't remember someone's name in a social situation?

(ht: WiseBread)

10 Things To Consider About Those Who Visit Your Church

#1 You will have more guests in one year than you think.
Research shows that five to eight percent of your worshipping community will self-identify as guests. Therefore the number of guests in one year is: [(Ave. weekly worship attendance) x (.05) x (52)]

#2 Many of your guests are going through situations that make them more responsive to God. These are the folks that are most likely to be moving, changing jobs, getting divorced, having kids, etc.

#3 Your guests are assessing very quickly whether or not they are coming back. This happens much faster than we think. For example, read The 11-Minute Difference.

#4 Your guests represent step one of accomplishing the Great Commission- these are the people coming to you! How much does your church spend on foreign missions? Compare that to how much we invest into the fish that swim to the boat before we cast a net.

#5 A guest who is attending may represent years of prayer, service, and invitation by a church member. My mom and I attended church without my father for 12 years. The first time my Dad came to church with us, imagine how I felt about the church and the hospitality of the people. All I could think was “Don’t screw up!”

#6 Studies show that guests will talk about their initial experiences 8-15 times with other people. Serve guests well and multiply your message.

#7 A welcoming ministry is a great “shallow end of the pool” to get people involved in service for the first time.Yes, you have plenty of intimidating places to serve like worship, small groups, and children’s ministry. So why not leverage an easy place to start?

#8 Building a great ministry to guests nourishes a culture of hospitality because of the concrete reminders to the entire congregation that guests matter.

#9 Investment in a welcoming ministry is an investment into every other ministry your church offers. I ask churches to dream about what ministry they might start. I then tell them to get it done by first having great guest services. Do you want an amazing prison ministry? Maybe the next Chuck Colson is visiting next week.

#10 We are commanded in Scripture to be hospitable. The Greek word philoxenia literally means to “love strangers” and is used in Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2.

( ht: Will Mancini)

The 4 Most Important Things Your Guest Needs

How do you turn guests from their initial first impressions into lasting connections?   It is important that you keep your eye on these four things your guest is going to need from you - and you are going to need systems in place that will help you accomplish these four things.

  • Push guests toward regular attendance 
  • Make sure they develop deep friendships within the congregation
  • Get them in a small group
  • Find a volunteer opportunity where they can plug in

40 Simple Ways To Invite People To Church

Mike Lukaszewski at Oak Leaf Church posted a list of 40 Ways You Can Invite People to Church.

Here is a sample of that list, but go HERE to read the entire list.
  • Grill out for the employees of a company or business.
  • Set up our party trailer, which comes with a grill, moonwalk, helium tank and balloons, video games, chairs, etc. at any community events.
  • Dress up like a Star Wars character wherever there are people and take pictures with kids and families. Give them a special invite card with the location they can download the picture. You will have a blast and invite a bunch of people to church.
  • Tailgate at high school football games. Give away hot dogs and invite people.
  • Set up a moonwalk at a local park while events are happening.
  • Volunteer at community runs and bike races
  • Hand out coffee or hot chocolate at the First Friday events in downtown Cartersville
  • Give out hand warmers with the OLC logo at winter events like the Christmas parade
  • Do a free oil change or car inspection in the House of Rock parking lot
  • Show UFC fights on Saturday night at the House of Rock
  • Host a block party for your neighborhood. Again, the party trailer is available.
  • Provide “full service” at a local gas station – wash windows and leave a car freshener
  • Show free family movies at the House of Rock on Friday nights
  • Help local schools with their fall festivals. Instead of re-creating the wheel, just help a school make their event better.
  • Take professional pictures at local school talent shows
  • Visit a nursing home
  • Take a couple of hours and put out door hangers in your neighborhood or apartment complex.
  • Go put invite cards on car windshields. Try not to get arrested…that keeps it fun.
  • Be intentional about coaching a kids sports team.
  • You and your kids set up a lemonade stand.
  • Have a free garage sale…give away things and invite people to church
  • Do a free car wash
  • Walk around a neighborhood and collect canned food. Invite people to church while asking for food.
Read the rest HERE

What ideas would you contribute to this list?

Is Your Church Calling "Visitors" By The Wrong Name?

This is an excerpt from a great post over at Godvertiser

Throughout the post, Kenny addresses the problems and pitfalls of identifying our guests as "first time" and discusses the real issue on why guests (if in fact they do) come back for another visit.

Here is an excerpt:

Certain questions were asked to those who made "first time visits to church". Some of the answers give you a clue as to how they want to be treated. . .
  • 11 percent said they would be willing to identify themselves as a visitor when visiting a church for the first time
  • 63 percent said they would prefer to wait until at least the second visit to let anyone know they are visiting
  • 26 percent of formerly churched adults said they desire to slip in and casually introduce themselves after the service.
The fact is that for most churches, 90% of first timers that don’t return.

"So aren’t we calling this group by the wrong name? Aren’t these First-Time ONE-TIME Guests, not first-time guests?"

With all of the assimilation strategy attempts (ie. free gifts/visits/thank you notes) to try to get those guests to come back for a second visit, what really in the end prompts a person to return?

If you look at 15 reasons why people won’t return a second time to your church, none of these are solved by giving stuff away or claiming rewards for showing up:
  1. No welcome from the parking lot to the pews.
  2. Finding the right door to sanctuary appeared difficult.
  3. People in the pews held on to their “good seats.”
  4. Too many “churchy insider words” like doxology and introit throughout the worship experience.
  5. No safe, clean nursery for the babies and toddlers.
  6. No sincere greeting extended by pastors or members.
  7. No warmth or hospitality extended.
  8. Missing joy and a spiritual atmosphere.
  9. No sense of family in the church community.
  10. Very limited reaching out to outsiders or strangers.
  11. Very few ministries or activities for youth or children.
  12. Public recognition of guests that left them feeling uncomfortable.
  13. Appears to be no vision or purpose for the congregation.
  14. On Sunday morning, members and ushers seem focused on “member only” conversations.
  15. No one invited them back.
According to Kenny, the key isn't the strategy or gimmicks, rather it is the culture that is created on Sunday morning and whether or not the church is "outward" focused. And this responsibility goes well beyond the pastor and staff - but it becomes the responsibility of the entire congregation.

Make sure you read the entire post HERE