Church visitors come and church visitors go. And most of the time, it’s just like that. In a typical North American church, less than 15 percent of all first-time visitors ever return. Over the years, I’ve spoken with hundreds of business owners and every one of them has agreed – if they only retained 15 percent of their customers, they’d be out of business.
Since poor hospitality is the #1 reason first-timers don’t return, let me offer five things you can do this week to help ensure your guests feel comfortable (because if they’re comfortable, it’s more likely they’ll be back).
Ensure Your Visitors Are Well Greeted
It takes more than even a rousing “Good morning!” for a guest to feel welcome. (Did the greeter at Walmart make you feel like anyone really cared if you were there or not?) Don’t just welcome them, engage them with light conversation. Don’t create a bottleneck, but train your greeters to have a few words with guests. One greeter I knew would escort guests to the next level greeters (in this case, the ushers) and chatted with them all the way. Once the handoff was complete, the ushers whisked the visitors to their favorite seat (back row, aisle … almost every time).
Offer Beverage Service Before the Worship Starts
I know … your sanctuary is more sacred than the Holy of Holies. But remember, that curtain was rent asunder, top to bottom, to offer complete access. In today’s world, a synonym for “complete access” is “with my coffee.” In a study done by Net Results magazine, a clear majority of growing churches offer beverages prior to worship and allow participants to bring their drinks into the worship center during the service. The larger the church, the more likely they were to encourage beverages.
If you want your guests to be comfortable, encourage them to relax and enjoy their coffee (or tea or orange juice or whatever) in worship.
Don’t Make Anyone Ask Where the Restrooms Are
The number one question on most visitors’ minds when they walk into your building is “I wonder where the rest rooms are?” Don’t make them ask. There should be clear signage throughout your building that indicates exactly where the rest rooms are (and the nursery and the worship center). No matter where you are in the building, you should be able to see a sign that points you in the right direction.
Take Good Care of Their Children
When I do consultations at a church that has a “Children’s Worship Packet” in the worship center, I remind the church: you already know you have a problem. Study and study has shown that children are bored in worship services that were created for adults … and that bored kids become resentful and then rebellious and then 60 percent of them leave church at their earliest opportunity and refuse to return. Ever.
So, first make sure you have a Guest Friendly Nursery. It should be safe, sanitary, secure, appropriately staffed, and the decor should sizzle.
Second, make arrangements for the elementary school children. Don’t think Children’s Church after the kid’s message. Think Children’s Worship that makes disciples out of your children.
The truth is, if the kids have a great time at your church, the family will likely return. If they’re bored, the chances of the family returning falls to almost zero.
Communicate Clearly in Your Worship Service
Unless you speak Russian, a trip to worship at your local Russian Orthodox Church is likely to be a lesson in beauty, wonder, and pageantry matched only by confusion, irrelevance, and frustration. You may go once for the experience, but the chance of you returning with any regularity is between slim and none.
That’s pretty much what most first-time visitors experience when they show up at a worship service and hear things like:
- Jesus is the propitiation for our sins and the iniquities of the world.
- Join us for coffee in the narthex or doughnuts in Humbardt’s Hall, room 207, following the benediction.
- Please remain seated and in silence during the postlude.
- Turn in your Bible to Micah 2:1.
- Paul writes of the atonement in his epistle to the Romans.
If you’re going to use “Christianese” or “Churchese” vocabulary, you’ll need to define them every time you use them. Not occasionally. Not once a month. But every single time you use them. Frankly, you’re better off just dropping them from your vocabulary, from your bulletin, from every publication that you have.
Of course, there are more ways to help your guests feel comfortable, but this week, let’s work on these. We can add “no one comes to a church to discover friendliness, they come to find friends” at a later date.
Question: What are some of Christianese words you’ve discovered at church? Share your list in the Comments Section below.