3 Reasons to Add a Parking Ministry to Your First Impressions Ministry

Unless you have a church with multiple parking lots, people don’t typically need help finding a place to park when they’re arriving for Sunday worship. As a result, most churches often lack a parking lot ministry and fail to recognize the impact and influence it can have on both their regularly attending members and guests. This ministry is the first opportunity to connect with people and the first chance to make someone feel truly welcomed as soon as they drive onto the property. When done right, this ministry welcomes guests and helps set the tone for the rest of the worship experience. If your church is lacking a parking lot ministry, here are a few reasons you should start one.

3 Reasons to Form a Parking Lot Ministry

1. They are the First Point of Contact for Guests & Members Alike

The volunteers in your parking lot are the first point of contact for guests and members alike and are the first to recognize and greet newcomers. Visiting a church for the first lightstock_424776_full_katetime can be uncomfortable. Having someone welcome you from the moment you drive onto the campus, help direct you to an appropriate parking place, and guide you towards the correct entrance or who to speak with inside to get more information about the church helps eliminate that initial anxiousness a guest might feel on their first visit.

2. Keep Traffic Moving Smoothly Before & After Services

Imagine sitting in church and suddenly seeing groups of people get up and leave before the service has ended. A church we worked with in Virginia said it took an average of 8 minutes to exit their lot. As a result, people left services early to avoid the traffic lines. That’s not a great first impression for visitors. You’ll always have people who arrive late and leave early, but you can reduce that number with a parking lot ministry. Another way a parking volunteer can play an important role is by managing and directing traffic safely and effectively, so everyone gets in and out of the parking lot in a timely manner.

3. Farewell Impressions

Farewell Impressions matter just as much as someone’s first impressions. Parking volunteers have a unique opportunity to send people off in the same cheerful manner they were welcomed with. Recognizing people with a smile and a wave or saying, “Have a great week!” leaves your guests feeling valued and they’ll be more likely to recall their experience and your church fondly. lightstock_246174_full_kate

Do you have a parking lot ministry? If not, start one. Gather a team of your most cheerful volunteers and provide them with the necessary tools to ensure every guest and member feels welcome and safe. For larger churches, this may include golf carts, traffic cones, and signs. For smaller churches, they may simply need some reflective vests. The most important tool of all, however, is that a church sees this work as a ministry and understands the impact it can have. You never know who you’ll encounter on a given Sunday and what brings them to your church. A parking lot ministry gives you the chance to make someone feel welcome before they even enter your church and let them know they matter before they head back out into the world.

 

At Faith Perceptions, we provide churches unbiased feedback by sending mystery guests to their services. Churches with a good parking lot ministry often receive the most positive feedback because this ministry makes guests feel welcome before they even set foot inside. If you’d like to find out how your church’s parking lot ministry is impacting people, our mystery guest program can help.

3 Things Your Church Greeters are Doing Wrong & How to Improve Your Greeters’ Ministry

“The person who handed me the bulletin actually did not greet me, which I thought was very odd. The children’s minister came over to me and introduced herself, which was very welcoming, but she was the only one who interacted with me before the service. I thought that the greeter should have at least said hello to me and welcomed me.” – Faith Perceptions Mystery Guest

Have you ever walked into a store and the salespeople don’t even acknowledge you? They don’t ask what brings you in or if they can help you find anything. Instead, they completely ignore you. It makes you feel uncomfortable, particularly if you do need assistance.

Now think about how newcomers feel when they’re brushed off or completely ignored by some of the first people they meet at your church. It’s not a stretch to say they probably feel just as uncomfortable and unwelcome. They may even be reluctant to come back.

3 Things Your Church Greeters are Doing Wrong

1. They Don’t Make Eye Contact
At some point we’ve all been “greeted” at church by someone who never even looks at us. Instead, they stand at the door, eyes toward the floor, mumble a “good morning”, and hand out bulletins without so much as a smile. This doesn’t make regular attendees or guests feel welcome.

2. Avoid Conversation or Answering Questions
Some church greeters make eye contact and even say hello, but they do their best to Greeter1avoid answering questions or getting drawn into conversations. Perhaps they assume someone else will help any newcomers, so they don’t have to. Regardless, it’s not a good first impression. People who don’t want to engage in conversation or offer any assistance don’t have a knack for hospitality and shouldn’t be serving on your greeters’ ministry.

3. Engage in Conversation with their Friends
This is probably the worst mistake church greeters make: getting caught up in conversations with their friends and just casually handing out bulletins to guests. It makes newcomers feel as though their attendance isn’t worth anyone’s time and attention. Plus, it gives off the impression that your church is cliquey, which is off-putting to newcomers who feel left out.

3 Ways to Improve Your Greeters’ Ministry

1. Recruit the Right People
Start by getting the right people to serve on your greeters’ ministry. These people should be naturally friendly, outgoing, and excited to share this ministry with guests. Creating a ministry description (like you would for a job) outlining the mission and vision will help volunteers understand what’s expected while weeding out members who aren’t a good fit for the team.

2. Have a Team Rotation
Even some of the friendliest, outgoing people will resort to some of the mistakes listed above when they’re feeling tired and burnt out. Having a rotating team of church greeters can prevent feelings of burnout while also providing appropriate coverage and backups when needed. This ensures you’ve always got a team of greeters who are ready and excited to welcome guests, answer their questions, and point them in the right direction at each and every service.

3. Meet Regularly
Regular greeters’ meetings are also a good idea to keep everyone informed, discuss Greeter2schedules, and explore areas for improvement. They allow you to provide ongoing training of best practices for engaging in conversations with both members and guests. They can discuss the good and bad at their meetings to see if there’s anything they can implement and improve upon. These meetings also give your volunteers time to get to know each other and build strong relationships, which only further serves the overall mission of making everyone feel welcome.

Too many churches overlook the importance of their greeters’ ministry and this first impression. If you want to make people feel welcome, you need a team of church greeters at every service ready to answer questions and offer up important information with a friendly “hello” and a smile. These volunteers will transform your ministry from cold and distant to warm and welcoming, encouraging guests to return.

 

How is your greeters’ ministry doing? Are your church greeters friendly and inviting or are they making one (or more!) of the mistakes listed above? If you’d like an unbiased perspective on your greeters’ ministry, our mystery guest program can help. Each week we send hundreds of mystery guests into churches across the country and they report back on their experiences with everything from the parking lot to the church greeters to the services themselves. Contact us for more information or to get started.

8 Things a Visitor Wants to See on Your Church Website

My daughter recently asked if she could attend a Christian outreach event. Since this event wasn’t affiliated with our church (and she’s notorious for lacking answers to basic questions like “Who’s in charge?” and “Where do they meet?”), I did what most parents today do: I went to the church’s website and social media pages looking for information. Unfortunately, I came up empty handed. While their website was certainly attractive, it lacked basic information I needed to know as a parent before agreeing to send my child to an event.

Sadly, this isn’t too far off from what someone visiting a church for the first time experiences. The church website is typically their first stop, but all too often they can’t find the basic information they need. Below are 8 things guests look for on church websites but say the information either isn’t there or was difficult to find:

 1.  Worship Times & Location
This is one of the most important pieces of information a potential visitor will look for, but it’s frequently buried within the homepage or on another page altogether. List this lightstock_69176_full_kateinformation clearly on the homepage and any other relevant pages. Make sure if these times ever change for any reason, you make the necessary updates to your website so potential guests don’t show up at the wrong time.

2.  Welcome Statement
It doesn’t have to be big or flashy but adding some type of welcome statement to your website lets visitors know you’re happy they found you and you want them to visit your church.

3.  Directions
Thanks to GPS, most people can make do with just an address. If you’re in a hard-to-find area, though, directions can be extremely helpful. Plus, it allows you to verify that your location is mapping correctly on GPS.

4. Where to Park
Even mid-sized churches have more than one parking lot, which can be confusing for pexels-photo-753876guests. Add a section on your website that tells guests which lot to park in (and how to get to it, if necessary). If you have a kids’ ministry, you may also want to indicate the best place to park for parents with small children.

5.  Security, Safety, & Qualifications
Would you feel comfortable dropping your children off at a place you’ve never visited and couldn’t find information about online? Probably not. Unfortunately, may churches do a poor job of sharing information about what they offer for kids, who will care for them and what their qualifications are, and the level of security involved. If young families are a group you’d like to attract to your church (as it is for most churches), you need to do a better job of providing this kind of information.

6.  Contact Information
Potential visitors may have additional questions about your church they couldn’t find (or didn’t have time to look for) on your website. Adding a clear contact page with your address, phone number, email, and a contact form shows potential visitors you welcome questions. For your contact form, keep it simple. All you need is their name, phone number, and email address. Don’t make them give you the name of their first-born or their blood type just to get a call back.

7.  Guest Services
If you have a dedicated spot inside your church where guests can stop to get more lightstock_418692_full_kateinformation or ask questions, make that clear on your website. In addition to pointing them to the right location, you’ve also got to give them a reason to stop by. Have someone there who can show them around, answer their questions, and introduce them to other church members so they feel welcome.

8.  What You Believe
It happens all the time. A potential guest visits a church website and has no idea what their beliefs or core values are. Make your beliefs known from the get-go so your guests know what to expect and whether those values align with their own.

So where do you put all this information? If you don’t already have a dedicated visitor page on your website, we recommend creating one and calling it, “New to {Insert Church Name Here}?”and include the above information. This page should be easy to find and should have everything a potential guest needs to know in an easy-to-read format. Having a place on your website dedicated for your guests lets them know you’ve thought about and prepared for them, which makes them feel welcome before they’ve even set foot in your church.

At Faith Perceptions, we regularly send mystery guests into churches and gather feedback on everything from the church website to parking to the services themselves. Our mystery guests frequently tell us the above items are the most difficult to find on a church website or are absent altogether. If you’re curious about how well your site is working for visitors, our mystery guest program can provide all the feedback you need.

Top 5 Best & Worst Things that Happened at Churches in 2017

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!

Best

1. “I felt more welcome in this church full of strangers than I do at my own family’s holidays.”

Greeter

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!”

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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.”

Worst

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.”

Driver

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.”

Ignored

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.

5 Outreach Ideas to Make Christmas More Meaningful for Guests

It’s a commonly known fact that church attendance increases during the Christmas season. Due to this increased attendance, your church has a huge opportunity to reach out to first-time guests and to make their Christmas season more meaningful.

As you prepare for the season, and all those first-time guests, think of at least one outreach you can do outside of the usual Christmas services to connect with people because you never know the seeds that are being planted or where they will lead…

  1. Open Your Church for a Community Meal. The holiday season is tough for some people (possibly including those who are visiting your church for the first time), so open the doors of your church and have a meal together. For non-churchgoers, a meal together is a great way to connect with others. Once your guests have been physically fed, this is a perfect opportunity to spiritually feed them as well. Make it about more than the meal. Make it about fellowship, community, and about God.

For non-churchgoers, a meal together is a great way to connect with others. Once your guests have been physically fed, this is a perfect opportunity to spiritually feed them as well.


  1. Adopt a Local Family in Need. There are a lot of ways to do this. You may have families within the walls of your church that would greatly benefit from some extra care at Christmas and there is likely a family in your community that is alone and going without this Christmas. Encourage small groups or Sunday school classes to commit to blessing one family for Christmas. I have personally been a part of adopting a family at Christmas and have later seen those families attending a service at my church. I immediately had a connection with that family that was visiting for the first time and they felt at home because they felt like a part of the group already.

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  1. Christmas Caroling. This may sound a little cheesy, but it’s a great way to spread some Christmas joy and to follow-up with first-time guests who leave their address with the church after they visit. If drop-in visits are not part of the way your church follows up with guests, consider sending a Christmas card or email with information about your Christmas services for this year.
  1. Make your Church’s Activities Family Friendly. Get families involved by creating a space in your church where children can “shop” for inexpensive gifts for their parents. The church where I grew up throws a Community Christmas Party every December and invites anyone in the community to come to “shop” for donated items, free gift wrapping, and Christmas cookies. It was (and still is) a huge success every year and the church continually has visitors on Sunday that first heard about them through the Christmas party.

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  1. Don’t Stress. This one may be easier said than done. You still have time to plan and get your activities ready for guests. Remember, most people will be grateful no matter how small the act because it’s about the attitude behind your outreach. Anything your church decides to do is a way of showing the love of Christ at Christmas.

Anything your church decides to do is a great way of showing the love of Christ as Christmas.


Instead of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, move your church’s focus to how your church can make Christmas more meaningful for guests and for your community.

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send ‘unchurched’ mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with people. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

 

 

Contagious Worship

Through our research, we’ve found that some guests won’t go back to a church because they found the church to be unwelcoming. Others talk about the lack of faith formation opportunities available to grow or that the church doesn’t have anyone their age or that there are only a few families present to grow with. Another key reason we hear time and again is the disconnected worship a guest experiences.

One of our mystery guests commented, “In churches, I sometimes get the feeling that during worship the congregation just goes through the motions instead of approaching worship with this attitude that says, ‘We were made for this, so let’s worship God with all we’ve got.’”


“In churches, I sometimes get the feeling that during worship the congregation just goes through the motions instead of approaching worship with this attitude that says, ‘We were made for this, so let’s worship God with all we’ve got.’”


We were made for worship….I love that. But what is worship? It’s defined as an adoring reverence or regard paid to God. And when you dig into what the word reverence means (an attitude of deep respect with a trace of awe), should our worship ever be anything other than authentic if we’re truly standing in awe of God?


Should our worship ever be anything other than authentic if we’re truly standing in awe of God?
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Have you ever been to a church that played music that wasn’t your favorite, but the energy of the worship leader and the congregation was so contagious you couldn’t help but enjoy the experience? I have. To be honest, traditional church music is not really my thing. I have a respect for traditional hymns, but I connect more in worship to contemporary music.

About a year ago, the church I attend hired a worship pastor who incorporates both traditional and contemporary music into our worship services. I wasn’t thrilled the first Sunday when he started playing a traditional hymn, but I very quickly had a change of heart when I realized how sincere he was about worshipping God through all kinds of music. It was just so real that I also couldn’t help feeling connected to God during that worship experience.

This type of worship can be truly contagious, even if being very involved in worship is outside of someone’s comfort zone. One mystery guest said this: “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 and feel too self-conscious to belt it out. Not here!”


“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 and feel too self-conscious to belt it out. Not here!”


If your church is creating an environment of contagious and authentic worship, it makes it that much more inviting to a first-time guest, no matter what type of music you play. Unfortunately, music style seems to be something that many churches get too caught up in. However, from a guest perspective, the style sometimes doesn’t matter if they’re able to really connect with and engage in the experience.


If your church is creating an environment of contagious and authentic worship, it makes it that much more inviting to a first-time guest.
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Despite what some people think, it doesn’t always have to do with the style of worship. If you are really drawn to one particular style of worship, that can certainly have an impact on your experience, however, we have found that the style of music is often secondary to something more important. If you’re asking yourself what is more important during worship than the music, the answer is the sincerity behind the worship.

Another mystery guest told us, “The music was mostly traditional which typically isn’t my favorite form of music, but the energy and engagement of the congregation really made it enjoyable. I felt like these people really believed what they were singing!”

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How many of us really believe what we’re singing during worship? Are we really thinking about the words we’re singing, or are we thinking about what’s for lunch or what we need to pick up at the grocery store? No judgment here…I’ve sometimes found myself on auto-pilot during worship and have to re-focus my attention to where it should be.

The point is that authentic, sincere worship is contagious and can be inviting to a first-time guest. I’m not saying you should put on a show when you’re worshipping, but guests are very intuitive when it comes to recognizing real worship. This particular mystery guest told us, “This may have been the most enjoyable, inspired, and unique music I’ve encountered in church. Right away, it was clear that this group loved their worship here.”

Psalm 100:1-2 may be one of the most well-known verses in the Bible about worship. It says, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs.” Gladness, joyfulness, and sincerity. This is contagious worship.

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send ‘unchurched’ mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with people. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

5 Ways to Keep Ministries Alive in the Summer

In our last blog, we covered the dos and don’ts of changing service times at your church. But what about those churches that cancel almost everything during the summer?

I recently read about a church that shuts down their entire church during the month of July every year. This is to encourage the congregation to spend time connecting with their families. They don’t offer Bible studies, student ministry, or even a Sunday morning service during this time. Similarly, in the summer months, many churches consolidate worship services, shut down discipleship (small groups, bible studies, and student ministry, etc.) because they see a decline in attendance. They also face many of their dedicated volunteers throughout the year wanting to take a break from leading and serving to vacation or spend time with family.

While there are significant benefits to taking a break and being with your family, I would argue that churches may be missing a chance to connect in a deeper way with people who are finally able to start attending a church in the summer months because the busyness of the school year has finally slowed down. When they come, not being able to experience the full ministries of the church could deter them from coming back again. Furthermore, the very action of stopping those ministries sends a message that taking a break from communal worship and faith formation is okay.

Furthermore, the very action of stopping those ministries sends a message that taking a break from communal worship and faith formation is okay.

There are ways to keep your church’s ministries alive in the summer while still creating margin for rest and family time. 

  1. Take a short break. Jeff Moran, Pastor of Students and Missions at Lynwood Baptist Church stated, “I do think it is appropriate to take a short break at the end of the school year…in my opinion, no longer than two weeks.” Having this short break in your ministries gives everyone a chance to rest, but then hopefully will bring people back revitalized and ready to continue ministry. Cutting ministries eliminates an outreach opportunity to those seeking out a church. Keeping ministries going increases your opportunity for reaching more people, especially our youth, who need more positive options to counter the negative ones they are facing daily.

  2. Focus on who came. Right now, you might be thinking that your church cuts summer services because hardly anyone shows up. Does it really matter if only 20 people show up to worship on Sunday morning or to a youth group on Wednesday night? It shouldn’t. Those 20 people obviously want to be there. Remember, Jesus started with a following of only 12 and look how his ministry spread. Rather than focus on who isn’t there, your church can concentrate on who is there. Sometimes it’s nice to have a smaller group of people to worship with, and this can be a time where you create a more intimate service with acoustic worship and time for prayer. A smaller group (assuming it is smaller) also allows you to create more opportunities for connection with others. 

keeping ministries alive summer (2) (2)

  1. Know Your Options. In one breath, we are saying don’t cut ministries, but in another, we also need to acknowledge how hard our pastors, church staff, and volunteers work serving throughout the year, and could really use a break. If your regular volunteers need a break, start recruiting early for others to step in and take their place. There are people in your church who may not commit to serving during the school year but are willing to pinch hit during the summer months to give others a break. Summer is also a great time to bring in guest speakers, and sources like RightNow Media offer video-driven studies that your church can participate in together with minimal preparation on the part of your pastor. 
  1. Provide Variety. Maybe it’s important for your church to switch it up and try out a new way of doing things during the summer. Moran had this to say about how he changes up student ministries over the summer: “Providing variety with your summer schedule is a good thing because I think it breaks the monotony of doing the same thing as you do during the school year. I also think it provides some excitement, and when students get excited about something, they are more likely to invite a friend.” Lower pressure events are a great gateway experience that can lead to someone attending your church. 
  1. Be Intentional. When asked about why he chooses to have an ongoing youth ministry in the summer, Moran said, “Students need consistency and encouragement. We continue to meet in the summer to help students be consistent in their relationship with the Lord and in their relationship with other students…Our relationship with God doesn’t stop with the summer, so we do not want to give the impression to students that they should take the summer off.This really goes for everyone, not just students. By keeping your church services and ministries going through the summer months, you set the tone that connecting with God matters all throughout the year not just during the school year.

Our relationship with God doesn’t stop with the summer, so we do not want to give the impression to students that they should take the summer off.

Does your church keep its ministries alive in the summer or have you found an approach that works better? Let us know in the comments.

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send ‘unchurched’ mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with people. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

Dear Church: Are you About to Change Service Times? Read This First.

During the summer months and holidays throughout the year, churches change service times. Some do it to accommodate an increase in attendance. Most though, do it to accommodate the needs of the church and a decrease in attendance, especially during the summer months. While both have different reasons, what they typically have in common is failing to let people outside of the church know about it.  We can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen a church change service times or combine a service, and the only people that know about it are the ones who regularly attend the church.

“I arrived at the church for the second service only to learn that they had a combined service that day and it was half over.”

If your church is considering changing things up over the summer, here are some things you can do to make it go smoothly and avoid confusion:

Decide Early. If your church is considering combining your services for the summer or maybe you’re going to cancel your evening service over the summer, make that decision now and start talking about it. That also includes any other program you are discontinuing over the summer months.

 Prepare Your Teams. Any changes like this should be clearly communicated to your staff and volunteers BEFORE you start announcing it to everyone else. This will ready those that work or serve at the church to prepare for the change before it happens.

Get the Word Out. Start advertising a change in service times 4-6 weeks prior. You’ll want to communicate the reason for the change so everyone understands. Announce it during your services (using a video can make it more memorable), include a reminder in the bulletin, update your website with a banner ad and information, and put it on your social media profiles. The week before the change, be sure your outside signs reflect those new times as well.

Summer Schedule

“As a guest, I was a bit disappointed to find out the service had already started. This was my first church service that I had ever attended voluntarily.”

Check and Check Again. This point is one of the main reasons we decided to write about this. It’s interesting how often we find discrepancies in the available information about a church’s service times. We often research this type of information for our clients and, not surprisingly, we find that different sources of communication all show different information. For example, the social media pages and home page on the website list the service times differently than the calendar page on the website. We’ve even called a church’s voicemail and found the service times listed inaccurately. Regularly check across all communication methods to make sure that you are being consistent in your communication.

“I checked the church’s website and found incorrect information that led me to the church at the wrong time. I visited thinking I was attending the 9:30 service only to find that they switched to their Fall schedule and now had two services.”

Be Creative. During the holidays or any other highly attended service throughout the year where there will be an increase in attendance, consider adding more seating and ask your regular attenders to go to a service where guests are less likely to attend (hint: later services are usually more popular among church visitors). For those holidays where you know that adding more seating won’t accommodate the increase in attendance, try keeping your main service times the same and adding an earlier or later service to the schedule. This will cut down on confusion with any changes.

 Don’t. Consistency is best and every time we see a church make a change, there is usually confusion. Not to mention that it causes everyone to have to get used to doing something new. If you don’t have a really good reason for changing service times, just don’t do it.

What has your church done to successfully create a smooth transition in schedule change?

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.

 

6 Ways a Church Can Really Honor Moms on Mother’s Day

After Christmas and Easter, Mother’s Day is the third highest attended Sunday of the year. Not only will you see lots of moms on Mother’s Day, you’ll also see the people they care about…the ones who don’t usually come any other time of the year.

Moms have no shame in playing the “All I want for Mother’s Day is for my family to come to church with me” card. And since moms work really hard all year, often without any thanks, and don’t get paid for their mom duties, that card usually works.

While you may have already planned what you are going to do this weekend to honor moms, here are six things that you should be thinking about:

  1. Know What Matters Most. Moms know that getting their family to come to church this Sunday is only one part of their plan. Inside, they are praying and hoping that aside from being acknowledged and appreciated, something even more important will happen – something meaningful that will influence those they care about to come back again. Plan your services knowing that just like Easter and Christmas, you will have people visiting that aren’t connected to a church community and may not be connected to any faith whatsoever. If you really want to honor moms, make it a point to also connect with the people they care about.Picture1
  2. Remember Moms. This is probably obvious, but I’ve actually attended a service on Mother’s Day where moms were barely even acknowledged. Moms get that they aren’t going to be the main attraction (and shouldn’t be), but it is nice when they are at least remembered on a day that’s supposed to be dedicated to them. Take time to sincerely thank and encourage mothers, including those women who have been “spiritual mothers” to others.
  3. Encourage Other Mothers. At one church service I attended, the pastor invited three women in different stages of motherhood to join him at the front of the church for a short interview. One mother had preschool aged children, one had teenaged children, and one was an empty-nester. Even though this was a very short portion of the service, it was significant and gave them an opportunity to encourage other moms. Testimonials are powerful and who better to encourage a mom than another mom?
  4. Make them Laugh. Even on Mother’s Day, moms don’t get a break from the daily routine of getting kids ready and getting everyone out the door. Why not start your service out with a funny video like this that will make them laugh and acknowledges the everyday challenges of being a mom.lightstock_90290_full_kate
  5. Be Sensitive. Remember that there will be mothers of all kinds attending your service on Mother’s Day. This includes those moms who may have lost a child (or a child who lost their mom), those that are estranged from their kids, foster moms, those who struggle with infertility, or those waiting on the adoption papers to come through, stepmothers, etc. You’ll want to be sensitive to those situations and provide encouragement to them as well.
  6. Be Hospitable. For some, this is the only invitation to church they will agree to all year. There are a plethora of ideas and ways you can connect and make a positive first impression with people, and we’ve already written about them here.

Whatever your church decides to do for Mother’s Day, honoring moms should be a focus. A key way to do that is by not just remembering them, but by reaching out to those they have brought with them. How is your church honoring moms this Mother’s Day?

 

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about church visitors. We send unchurched people into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been helping churches gain an outside perspective of their church since 2008.

Church Outreach and Why It’s Not Working

What is outreach? The word itself literally means “to reach out” and “to reach further than,” but the definition doesn’t tell you to whom you should be reaching out and how to do it. What does that mean for your church?


Outreach literally means “to reach out,” and “to reach farther than,” but to whom?
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I want to define what we consider outreach to be. There are (in our opinion) two primary types of outreach we see happening within the churches we work with:

Transactional Outreach: Much like it sounds – a transaction. This type of outreach usually centers on partnerships with other charities or organizations to meet a monetary or other specific need. For example, a canned food or clothing drive, a special offering for a charity or local service organization, hosting a holiday meal or providing a meal for a family in need. This type of outreach is necessary and needed, but typically churches don’t go beyond meeting the need to engaging and building a relationship with the actual people they are helping.

Missional Outreach: This type of outreach moves from transactional to transformational. It involves a church’s time and presence. It is often coupled with some form of transactional outreach, but has a relational component to it. Examples of missional outreach involve a school tutoring program where the church is serving the same kids and families weekly; or a prison ministry where people go in week after week to walk alongside those people and minister to them; or instead of just providing a meal for a family in need, people from the church are having dinner with that family and building a relationship with them. The point of missional outreach is to build relationships and commit to the long haul.


Missional outreach is a mission to build relationships and a commitment to the long haul.
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Most churches we work with lean more toward doing transactional outreach and have very few outreaches that are missional or transformational. Other churches try to do so much and spread themselves so thin with lots of busy work that their efforts bear little fruit because they aren’t deeply committed in any one area.

Outreach Audit: Your church may already be doing some things that could easily become more missional. Start by making a list of the outreach your church is doing. Then ask the following questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this outreach?
  2. How is this helping us live out our mission as a church?
  3. Is the outreach is bearing fruit? We’re not just talking church growth here. Some outreach efforts won’t increase attendance at your church, but it should be measurable and missional.
  4. If the outreach is primarily transactional how can it become transformational?
  5. What is God doing? In other words, where is God leading you to focus your outreach and what is he asking you to stop doing?

If you are looking for ways to improve your missional outreach consider reading Missional Moves. This book dives deeper into helping your church take what you are already doing and align your efforts to your church’s mission.

What kind of outreach is your church doing that is missional?

 

About Faith Perceptions
Faith Perceptions is a market research firm that provides churches and faith-based organizations with research about their target market. We send mystery guests into churches across the country each week to report back to us on what their experiences are like. We use this information to help churches improve the way they welcome and connect with guests. Faith Perceptions has been evaluating the first-time guest experience since 2008.