For the past 10 years, churches have hired us to find people who don’t regularly attend services to visit as first-time guests. The goal: to help churches see things through the eyes of a visitor. In the last year alone, we read over 1,000 first-time guest experiences at churches of all sizes, from small to mega, in every part of the country, and every denomination. Some of the responses made us laugh; others made us cringe. So here they are: the best and worst of 2017. Enjoy!
1. “I felt more welcome in this church full of strangers than I do at my own family’s holidays.”
2. “Best website I’ve ever seen from a church, or any organization for that matter. I knew exactly where to go today because the website has a feature where it gives you a first-person view of walking into the church, what you will see, and then walking you into the main worship area. Wow.”
3. “People throughout the sanctuary were singing and dancing happily. I sang my heart out, which I don’t ordinarily do because I often don’t hear anyone around me singing in church, so I feel too self-conscious to belt it out. Not here!”
4. As I got out of the car, an older gentleman came over and walked me to the door with an umbrella over my head so I wouldn’t get wet. I felt very welcome.”
5. “I was genuinely greeted, and it made me feel special and appreciated, like they truly cared about me being there. It made me want to return, especially after a hard weekend.”
1. “I had someone get upset with me while I was leaving the church parking lot because I didn’t exit fast enough. The person behind me became very upset and began to honk their horn repeatedly. Had I just driven into the street, I would have been in an accident! Being polite and patient should extend into the community, not just within the church building.”
2. “A lady tried to connect with me by talking about race since I was obviously a different race from everyone else in the church. She asked if I felt uncomfortable because I stood out racially among the crowd. After that she asked me if I needed money for lunch and other things.”
3. “I checked the church’s website and found information that led me to the church at the wrong time. I visited thinking I was attending the 9:30 service, only to find out they switched to their fall schedule and now only had two services.”
4. “When I sat down, a very nice lady came to tell me that I was sitting in their pew. I was willing to move, but the pew was quite large, and they said they like to sit in the middle.”
5. “Finally, after the third time of butchering my first name, the greeter said, “Your people’s mother’s give you very creative names that no one can remember. But it’s a beautiful name.”
Making visitors feel welcome is the cornerstone of any organization or business that wants to be successful, and churches are no different. When you make guests to your church feel both welcomed and accepted when they visit, you increase their likelihood of returning week after week.
Where do you think your church would fall on this list? Would you be in the best category or the worst? If you’re concerned you might fall in the latter category, consider getting some unbiased feedback from us. We send mystery guests (people who don’t regularly attend church) into churches every weekend to attend services and report back on their experiences. This information helps churches like yours improve how they welcome and connect with visitors. To learn more, visit http://www.mysteryguestprogram.com.