Tag Archive - experience

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Top Posts of 2018 #1 “Why People Don’t Invite their Friends to Your Church”

Welp, here it is…you made this the most read and most shared post on my blog in 2018. Thank you for going along on this countdown, and thank you for engaging with me through the content here at Helping Churches Make Vision Real! If you missed out on the countdown, no worries, I’ll post them all in one succinct list for you in a week or so.

There are a lot of reasons people go and check out a church for the first time. Maybe someone they know gets married and they go to celebrate their wedding or someone they know passes away and they go for the funeral. It may be that they already go to church on a regular basis and they move to a new area and are looking for a new church, or they decide to leave their old church for any number of reasons and are trying to find a new one. It may be that they saw some clever marketing from your church and decided to try it out or there is some crisis going on in their life and they think they might find some answers at church. Like I said, there are a lot of reasons people check out a church for the first time.

For all of those possibilities, the number one reason people attend a church for the first time is still because a friend personally invites them.

If your church is serious about growing and reaching new people you’ve got to figure out what is keeping people from inviting their friends. While many church leaders blame their people for not inviting their friends because they’re not “spiritually mature enough” or don’t have a “deep burden” for the lost I’d suggest it may be less complicated than that. It may be your fault.

#1 Quality Matters…a lot

I know churches don’t like to talk about this but it’s an unavoidable truth if you really want to reach and introduce new people to Jesus. I’ve been in too many churches whose facilities have not been maintained, they’re fresh out of 1978 and it’s not on par with other public space in their community. I’ve seen too many churches with someone leading worship on stage that just can’t sing. I’ve also been to too many churches who claim to be friendly but if you’re not an insider no one ever talks to you. I don’t think any of those churches intended to push away guests, but they did. Where did we get this idea that intent supersedes experience? I think we’ve misread the Scriptures that teach us that while man looks on the outside that God looks on the heart. The fact that God looks at the heart should challenge us and the fact that man looks on the outside should also challenge us! I don’t think that scripture in particular is a judgement statement in so much as it is a simple observation and fact. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

Question: Is what we are offering our guests quality? Are people not inviting their friends because they’re embarrassed to? How could we do less but do it with greater quality?

#2 New People bring New People

In John chapter 4 an entire village of people meets Jesus. Not because a missionary or pastor went to them or someone went through an evangelism training course but because of a simple invitation. A woman who had known Jesus for all of a couple of minutes invited everyone she knew to meet Him too. She was “new to Jesus.” New to Jesus people don’t need to be sequestered from their friends who don’t know Jesus and placed into some training program and then “sent” back out. They need to be encouraged to simply invite their friend to Jesus. Most people in our churches who have been around Jesus the longest invite the fewest people to Him (seems a little wrong if you ask me…but what do I know). This usually happens because over time they hang out with less and less people who are unfamiliar with Jesus. They wake up one day and all of their friends are Christians.

Question: Do we have new people at our church, and are we investing more in new people or in people who have been around for a while?

#3 Guest Comfort Level

Now I’m getting really shallow. I know. But like it or not if guests aren’t comfortable they aren’t going to be a lot of them at your church. There are a lot of things that can make a guest feel uncomfortable at your church. I’ve been to churches that don’t ever mention guests in their services. I’ve been to some churches that had really poor signage and I had no idea how to navigate the facility. I’ve been to churches that ask guests to remain seated during the service so regular attenders can come say hello (yea, there is no way I’m doing that). I’ve been to churches that tell people if they want to get into a small group to go see Cindi and I’ve thought to myself, “Who’s Cindi and where am I supposed to meet her if I want to get into a Small Group?” Churches are notorious for making outsiders feel like, well…outsiders. And then they wonder why guests don’t come back.

Question: What insider behaviors and language do we use that makes it difficult for outsiders to gain access to Jesus?

#4 Fun

Now I’ve probably finally gone off the deep end with this one. But if your church isn’t fun, if people don’t laugh, they simply aren’t going to invite their friends. No one invites their friends to stuff that isn’t fun. If kids don’t have a good experience at your church, you might be doing it wrong. If people don’t laugh at some point you might be doing it wrong. Jesus was actually really funny by the way. Jim Rayburn the founder of Young Life said, ”It’s a sin to bore a kid.” If that’s true then a lot of our churches might be in risk of sinning. Hmmmm… (yes I said people may not invite their friends to your church because it’s boring)

Question: Do people have fun when they come to our church? What can we do to help church be a fun experience?

If you’re a courageous church leader it may be worth your time to get your Sr. Leadership Team together to discuss where in your community people invite their friends to go with them to. Seriously, make a real list on a white board or something. Then make another list of all the reasons people invite their friends to go there with them. Then finally compare that to your church…you may be onto something at that point.


Posted in Leadership

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[Repost] How to get Easter Guests to Come Back to your Church

A couple of years ago I wrote a post on how to get guests who come to Easter services at your church to come back to your church. It went on to be one of the top 10 most popular posts on my blog that year. With Easter weekend coming up I thought I’d share it with you again in an effort to help you think through any last minute opportunities to leverage Easter to its fullest at your church and help guests come back.

In a couple of days churches all across the country are going to be hosting guests at their Easter services, hoping they say yes to following Jesus, and hoping that they come back the next week and get connected in the life of their church. I hope that happens too. But hope is not a strategy.

Here’s a couple of ideas that should help you develop a strategy to keep those guests coming back well after Easter.

1. Help Guests Self-Identify

Instead of head hunting for guests, create simple ways for guests to let you know that they are there. Guest parking, children’s check-in, a physical guest services location, and a communication card located in your church program or bulletin are all simple ways to create avenues for guests to let you know they are there, when they’re ready to let you know.

2. Don’t Spam People

Please don’t show up on people’s doorstep or bombard them with multiple emails and letters the week following Easter. Many of the companies out there that are the best at guest services don’t overtly pursue guests. Rather they are available to guests and their needs when their guests engage them and express a need.

3. Make the Next Step Easy

People come to church on Easter for all kinds of reasons, but they’ll stay at a church because of relationships and responsibility. What is the one, clear, simple, and easy step you want all of your guests to take…and why should they take it? How are you going to get guests quickly and easily connected to relationships and responsibility at your church?

4. The More Personal the Better

Instead of sending the same generic follow up letter to everyone make it personal. If guests are giving you personal information such as their name and the names of their children, and if someone is personally greeting them and hosting them then reach out to them in the same personal manner. Why not have the person that greeted them and hosted them write a hand-written card thanking them for being a guest at your church and that they’re looking forward to seeing them again next week.


Posted in Leadership

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How to make Guests Feel Uncomfortable at your Church

It’s uncomfortable for a person who’s unfamiliar with God and church to go to church for the first time. Often times they feel as though they’re taking a huge risk by even showing up. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that churches do to make guests feel even more uncomfortable when they go to church for the first time. Here are just a few…

Use Insider Language

Churches are notorious for using cute insider language like the “Butterfly Room” for the 2-year-olds. Just call it the 2-year-old room, that’s going to help guests understand it and not feel like an outsider. No guest knows if their kid should go in the butterfly room or the lady bug room…they’re raising kids not bugs. Also stay away from acrostics…I know every good Christian in America should know what FPU means, but I’m telling you, people who are new to church have no idea what you’re talking about. And if it’s confusing to them it could be the difference in them leaning in towards Jesus or away.

Point them Out

New people love to be singled out and made the center of attention, so make sure you do something like have them all remain seated and have everyone greet them in the worship service at some point. I hope you know that I’m kidding…if you don’t, let me let you in on a little secret…I’m kidding. Don’t point out new guests. Instead think through creative and nonthreatening ways for guests to self-identify themselves and let you know they’re there.

Make it Confusing to Navigate the Building

Make sure that you don’t use clear signage throughout your building. Guests should just know where to go when they come to our church, and if they don’t it’s their own fault. If they came to church more often they’d figure it out. When guests don’t know where to park, don’t know which entrance to go in, and have a difficult time navigating the facility because you haven’t thought about that for them and helped them through great way-finding, that always makes an already awkward situation worse.

Don’t Update your Facilities

That church building that looks and smells like it’s fresh out of 1980…yeah don’t update it, it’s vintage. We don’t need to impress people with our building. We’re here to worship God, not a building. I don’t think church buildings need to be crazy, over the top impressive…but when a church facility is not on par with other public space in the community it’s going to make guests feel uncomfortable.

Have Weird People taking care of their Kids

It’s weird dropping off your kids with someone you’ve never met before. It probably even makes some people feel like bad parents. Dropping off a kid in a room that is dirty and has old carpet, where the toys aren’t clean or a room that smells bad can make guests feel very uncomfortable. Not to mention dropping off kids where there is only a teenager or a male volunteer in the room can plain creep guests out. Oh, and make sure you don’t change their kids diapers and give the kids back to the guests with a dirty diaper…that always makes guests feel comfortable (sarcasm intended).

Ever been uncomfortable visiting a church for the first time? What made it so awkward for you? What are some other things you’ve seen churches do to make guests feel uncomfortable? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear about your experience and observations!


Posted in Leadership

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Top Posts of 2016 #7 “How to Keep Easter Guests Coming Back”

I wrote this post right before Easter 2016 and it struck a cord. Apparently a lot of churches are trying to figure out how to get guests to come back after they come for the first time. This post came in at #7 this year.

In a couple of days churches all across the country are going to be hosting guests at their Easter services, hoping they say yes to following Jesus, and hoping that they come back the next week and get connected in the life of their church. I hope that happens too. But hope is not a strategy.

Here’s a couple of ideas that should help you develop a strategy to keep those guests coming back well after Easter.

1. Help Guests Self-Identify

Instead of head hunting for guests, create simple ways for guests to let you know that they are there. Guest parking, children’s check-in, a physical guest services location, and a communication card located in your church program or bulletin are all simple ways to create avenues for guests to let you know they are there, when they’re ready to let you know.

2. Don’t Spam People

Please don’t show up on people’s doorstep or bombard them with multiple emails and letters the week following Easter. Many of the companies out there that are the best at guest services don’t overtly pursue guests. Rather they are available to guests and their needs when their guests engage them and express a need.

3. Make the Next Step Easy

People come to church on Easter for all kinds of reasons, but they’ll stay at a church because of relationships and responsibility. What is the one, clear, simple, and easy step you want all of your guests to take…and why should they take it? How are you going to get guests quickly and easily connected to relationships and responsibility at your church?

4. The More Personal the Better

Instead of sending the same generic follow up letter to everyone make it personal. If guests are giving you personal information such as their name and the names of their children, and if someone is personally greeting them and hosting them then reach out to them in the same personal manner. Why not have the person that greeted them and hosted them write a hand-written card thanking them for being a guest at your church and that they’re looking forward to seeing them again next week.


Posted in Leadership, Spiritual Formation

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How to get Guests to Come Back to your Church

Quick, name the top 5 churches you know that do a great job with guest services. Not so easy? Now try this, name the top 5 companies or organizations you know that do a great job with guest services. A little easier huh?

Why is it that the one organization on the planet that should care the most about people, the church, seems to get a bad rap for the way it treats people?

The other day I had the opportunity to spend a half-day with the staff at Sun Valley Community Church (the church I have the privilege of serving at) learning from the good folks over at Marriott about building a great guest service experience. If you want to be great at something you need to learn from people who do great things. Too bad there wasn’t church providing world-class service in this area we could learn from. Here’s a couple of take aways from our time together.

Nothing makes a guest feel more stupid than using internal language and jargon.

In other words stop using insider language. The most obvious way to tell if a church is insider focused or outsider focused is the language that they choose to use. It either says that the church is “inclusive” or “exclusive.” And it’s important because words build worlds. There are all kinds of ways this goes wrong in churches. Preaching as though everyone already knows Jesus and comes to the room with basic Bible knowledge, coming up with cool names and brands for ministries that mean nothing to people outside the church, and mentioning people from stage by name without explaining who they are just a couple of them. Two big principles to keep in mind when it comes to the language you choose to use in your church are: clear always trumps cute or cool and you’re always better off just calling things what they are. No one outside of your church understands what CR, Awana, FPU, or Re-Engage, means…sorry for the rant.

G.U.E.S.T.
G.reet the Guest

Be well kept, make eye contact, wear a smile, and have an open welcoming posture. A simple, “Welcome, we’re glad you’re here with us today,” will do. Don’t ask how people are doing unless you have time to stop and hear how they’re actually doing. Don’t ask unless you actually care to know. And by all means make sure your guest services volunteers are not huddled around talking with each other, instead ensure that they’re prepared and attentive to guests.

U.se the Guests Name

When possible use the guests name. It’s not as difficult as you may think to acquire a guest’s name at church. If they’re checking in their children for the first time, you’re obviously going to get their name. And you can always introduce yourself and ask their name…then use it. A name is the most important thing a person owns.

E.stablish the Guests Needs

Take time to understand what the guest needs. Are they looking around like they’ve never been there before? Are they looking for a restroom? Are they having a difficult time getting all of their kids into church? Don’t ask guests if they need help (men will always turn you down). Instead ask, “What can I help you find?” or “Let me help you.”

S.how Interest in the Guest

Think about how you can build a connection with a guest. Are they wearing sports paraphernalia? Is a child coming from a soccer game (wearing their uniform)? If it’s their first time attending, are they new to the area? Engage them in personal, yet unobtrusive, conversation.

T.hank the Guest

When people leave after service simply be polite, and thank them for being with you that weekend. Instead of spamming people a simple thank you email and invitation to their next step if they’re ready to take it is kind. Drop them a personal handwritten note thanking them for attending.


Posted in Leadership
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