After 17 years as a full time staff pastor at a large church, I am have a much DIFFERENT perspective now, as a children’s ministry consultant, as a “visitor” in a brand new church at least twice a month. I do believe that as a church staff we run the risk of getting closed into our “bubble”, unintentionally oblivious to the situations that turn new people off to our church. We’ve all heard the statistics that people make up their mind in the first few minutes of visiting your church whether or not they will come back. And we know our mission is outreach! Who DOESN’T want to grow? So what is really making new visitors stay away, or come back? Based on the last 3 years of my experiences as a “visitor”, let me share with you my top 10 turnoffs that just might keep a visitor from going back to your church.

10. Too Many “Inside” Jokes and References-

This is a big one. I cannot tell you how many times, even just this year that I have visited a new church and heard something like this from the pulpit: “We are all so happy for Mandy today. Yesterday was tough, but we all got a good laugh too didn’t we? Can we all just wave at Mandy and give her a hug?” It is not a fun feeling to be the only one in the room who has no idea what is going on. I’m sitting there awkwardly thinking, “Who is Mandy? What happened to her? Oh no, now I am the only one not hugging her.” I fully realize that a church does become a family, a community of believers- that is the way it is supposed to be. But too many inside references can close your family away and repel any potential new community members. A good idea is to think about what you are going to say from the perspective of a brand new visitor and perhaps do a quick explanation of what is going on.

9. No parking-

Think about it this way. If you went to a grocery store, and you drove around and around without finding a place to park, then had to park down the street and walk, wouldn’t you think about going to a different grocery store the next time? What’s worse, (what happened to me last Sunday), is when there is no place to park, no one to tell you where to park, and you have to drive around a new neighborhood and find a place to park. It seemed that all the regulars knew exactly where to park, but I felt awkward not knowing if I parked in an ok spot or not (a couple of blocks away).

8. Taking forever to fill things out on first visit-

This one can be tricky. I do not recommend sending home something for new visitors to fill out/mail in. If it doesn’t happen right then, it is not going to happen. You need that information to do great followup if you really want to grow. However, it is a HUGE turnoff to new visitors if your guest information page goes on and on, gets too personal and takes forever to fill out. They either just won’t fill it out or will still be filling it out during your message (a huge part of what visitors are there to hear). I think it is smart when churches include the guest card in their bulletin or seat pocket, instruct guests to pull it out and fill it out during announcements, and then have them turn it in right away during the offering. Our guest card is no more than an index card size and asks for name, address, phone number, email and family size. Remember that a lot of people are becoming more and more reticent toward giving out personal contact information, so keep it short and sweet.

7. Too much attention-

One church actually had the visitors stand while the congregation all applauded. During this time they put the lights onto the new visitors and played a special “guest song.” I am an extrovert and even I felt uncomfortable. The couple next to me were very quiet people and seemed mortified. I heard the wife mumbling that they wouldn’t be back. Some people are nervous about crowds and do not want to be singled out.

6. Too little attention-

Again, balance is so important. One of the chief complaints of brand new church visitors is, “No one greeted me. No one made me feel welcome. No one followed up on me.” Without embarrassing someone, it is important to have warm, friendly greeters to acknowledge people and make them feel included. Most churches drop the ball on followup. They fail to call new visitors or followup with them after their visit. If you really want to grow, do not “hope” that someone follows up with a guest. Intentionally ASK a warm caring person to call them/visit them. Make SURE that each guest is followed up with during that very first week after their first visit. Too many churches complain that they aren’t growing, but they are not willing to put the time/effort in to follow up on the new guests that are coming through their doors.

Stay tuned for part 2 next week- my top five new guest turnoffs! How about YOU? What is a major turnoff for you, when you visit a new church? Any good stories?

Love Trisha

church

Advertisements