Have you ever tried so hard to accomplish something (like seeding the lawn…or putting together that chair from IKEA with a million little pieces), but you end up with a bigger mess than when you started? Sometimes getting guests to return to your church is like that. You did all the right things (you think) to make a first-time guest feel welcome. So, why didn’t they come back? Sometimes it has nothing to do with the church itself. Some people just aren’t ready to come back to church. Sometimes though, they are ready, but what they experience when they get there isn’t what they hoped for.
Each week, we read through feedback from first-time guests on their church experiences. Here are some common themes as to why a guest doesn’t return.
Picture walking into a church you have never visited before. There are groups of people gathered talking and visiting with one another….and no one (outside of the greeter who handed you your bulletin) speaks to you. While that may not be intentional on the church’s part, it’s happening…a lot.
Being Too Friendly
This might strike some as odd, but it’s true. There’s a fine line in being welcoming and being too friendly. While your first-time guests don’t want to be ignored, they most likely won’t be up for playing a game of 20 questions either. One church guest had this to say about their visit:
I’m sure this church had the best intentions in making this guest feel welcome, but in the end it was too much and drove the guest away.
Nothing for Kids
This seems pretty obvious, but there are still many churches out there that do not offer any form of ministry for kids. If a family visits your church only to find out that there is nothing offered in the way of discipleship for their kids, they most likely won’t be back. If your kids’ ministry is non-existent or exists, but could use some work, check out our blog from last week.
Your church may offer a lot of ministry opportunities, but how are you relaying that information to someone new? We routinely visit church websites and find little to no information on what the church offers outside of Sunday morning. And, when the website does mention these things, it often includes “internal speak” that a guest is not going to understand. Your website IS the front door for your church and should be geared towards the people you are trying to reach, not the people who are already there.
An Aging Congregation
We see this most often with young adults. The church can be really welcoming, but at the end of the day if there aren’t people attending they can identify and do life with they will most likely move on. You may not be able to change the age diversity in your church overnight, but intentional outreach and ministries geared towards a younger generation will help, and demonstrates your church’s openness to connecting with that demographic.
This one is probably going to bother some people, but it has to be said. Whether we are talking about outreach, the teaching, worship music, hospitality, cleanliness, punctuality, etc., we should be doing it in truth and with excellence.
We write this not to condemn, but to challenge your church to be better. Every church has something they can improve on….even the really great ones.