Hey Church – What Moms Really Want for Mother’s Day

Did you know after Christmas and Easter, Mother’s Day is the third-highest attended Sunday at your church? A lot of moms (whether they regularly attend church or not) will have no shame in asking their family to attend church with them for their special day. And they should because it’s a day dedicated solely to mothers.

So, here’s what that means: you’re not only going to see a lot of moms visit, but you’re likely to see the people that matter most to them as well. With that in mind, 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.

Know What Matters Most. Getting their families to church is only part of what moms really want. What they really hope and pray for is that their loved ones will be impacted enough to come back again. Moms care about their loved ones being connected to a church and hopefully to a faith. Make sure you have a plan to connect with and follow-up with these new faces. By doing so, you’ll honor the moms in attendance with their kids and other loved ones.

Be Hospitable. Mother’s Day may be the only time all year that some people accept an invitation to attend church (because again…moms have no shame in playing the mom Mothers Day 1 (2019)card). There are so many ways you can connect with these people and make a great first impression. You probably have some of these ways figured out already, but if not, we’ve given you some ideas here.

Be Sensitive. There will be all kinds of moms visiting your church this Mother’s Day. This means that mothers who have recently lost a child, moms that are estranged from their kids, foster moms, hopeful moms that struggle with infertility, anxious moms waiting for the adoption papers to go through, stepmoms doing their best to connect with their bonus kids, and so many more. Be sensitive to all of these situations and provide encouragement to them as well.

Whatever your church plans this year for Mother’s Day, just remember that focusing on what moms really want is the most important thing. Showing that you care about the people that they care about is key. A mother’s work is never done, especially when caring for those around her, but the church can provide a significant and practical way to help.

Tales of an Unchurched Mystery Guest

“The message was about living daily life in the law of God and engaging others, yet I was not engaged…”  Click to Tweet

Do you wonder what a first-time guest experiences when they visit your church for the first time? A lot of churches wonder how guests are treated and what they can do to make the guest experience the best it can be. Our Mystery Guest Program helps you see your church through the eyes of a visitor.

Each month we feature a unique first-time guest experience we’ve read about from one of the many mystery guests we send into churches. This month’s mystery guest experience comes from a 32-year-old unchurched male who visited a church in a suburb of Atlanta…

 Is the Church Well-Known in the Area?
I stopped at a gas station approximately three minutes away from the church. The clerk at the gas station was not sure of the precise location of the church. The man very politely stopped what he was doing to try and help. He said, “I know there are lots of churches around here but I’m not sure where that one is exactly. You might just have to drive up and down the road here until you see the sign.”

Could You Find Your Way?
The church is a bit spread-out and maze-like, which can be confusing for a newcomer. I passed two printed pieces of paper in the stairwell that were taped to the wall with an arrow pointing the route and the word “sanctuary.” These pieces of paper were ineffective. They led me to doors into the side of the sanctuary during the middle of communion for the earlier service. I was rather embarrassed. On my way back downstairs to the service I was looking for, a lady introduced herself and guided me to the gymnasium. She stated, “We’ve been meaning to put some signs up out here,” which tells me the church is aware that although the campus may be small, navigating your way around it is rather confusing and the lack of signage only adds to that confusion.

The First Impression
My initial greeting was from a couple that asked me outside of the church if I was looking for someone. They were intuitive enough to see I was clearly disoriented in a new environment. Although they pointed me towards the sanctuary and the wrong service, I appreciate their efforts to engage with me. The lighting and temperature of the gymnasium were a bit dim and the room was cool. I would recommend more lighting in general, and some space heaters for the cool winter months. Although I did not partake in the table of refreshments, these items provided a welcoming touch.

Finding a Seat
The seating was quite roomy. Each individual cushioned seat was lined into rows of ten on each side with an aisle down the center for entrance/exit. I appreciate that the seats were cushioned and also large. I did not feel trapped or claustrophobic.

The Music/Worship
The band and vocalists were very talented. I could tell their musicianship was fluid and well-rehearsed as well as cohesive. Although I was not familiar with the song choices throughout the service, it was easy to follow along with the lyrics being projected above the stage/band. My only recommendation would be to add an upbeat/up-tempo song at the start and close of the service.

 Greeting During the Service
The initial welcome was given by the worship leader. It was short but sincere and was a nice segue into the first song of praise. A generalized welcome to guests without having them “stand and be recognized” is much appreciated.

The Message
The summary of the message was to keep the law of God in your heart, on your mind, and on your tongue, and you will be prosperous. I appreciate how the pastor took the time to read from the Bible and then relate the scripture to the point he was avid to make. A few of the jokes he made didn’t land well and were not funny given the congregation’s lack of reaction. The message was digested, but I did not leave wanting more.

The Speaker
The pastor was slightly monotone. A variance in speech and pattern helps keep the audience and congregation engaged. My suggestion in regard to the message is to take more pauses, change variance in speech, and have a brighter tone in vocals, thus keeping the audience engaged and interested.

What About Kids?
I was given the impression that the children and youth play a large part in this church and are important to its future. I think it’s important to include and recognize the children/youth in “big church” before they are invited off into their youth service time. This church did this, and it showed that the kids were well taken care of and the activities they are involved in are important to the church.

What Happened After the Service?
Everyone seemed ready to leave. I can understand this, but overall it gave me a sense of clique-ish mentality. The message was about living daily life in the law of God and engaging others, yet I was not engaged post-service. Perhaps something as simple as a volunteer or greeter at the doors on the way out to say good-bye or have a great week would leave people with a lasting positive impression.

Friendliness of the Church
While I was provided assistance in navigating my way around the church in search of the service location, the sincerity vibe I received from the overall congregation was lacking. I couldn’t help but feel like a bit of an outsider. There were no “hey how are?” exchanges, or even smiles for that matter. The atmosphere seemed rather sullen. Training and providing multiple greeters would make an outsider feel more at home and welcome. Encouraging the congregation to greet one another at the start of service would also help.

Information About the Church:
The first thing I noticed upon browsing the church’s Facebook page is that the last post was made over a month ago. We live in the age of technology and the lack of posts in over a month raises questions for me. The church website gives off an amateur and outdated vibe as well. Although relatively easy to navigate, the content is certainly lacking. I would have loved to see more photos of what the church is currently involved in both within its walls and outside in the community rather than just generic stock graphics. A layout of the church grounds/buildings would be exceptionally helpful in navigating the campus on both their website and social media page. And a formal welcome area would be ideal for newcomers interested in this church.

Outreach Opportunities
Perusing the back of the bulletin, I found there is a dinner and classes offered on Wednesday evenings. Proceeds for this go to a school they sponsor in another country. The only community outreach-based activity that I saw printed in the bulletin is about a four-day mission trip to help hurricane victims in the state. I would love to readily see more information about what this church is doing for their community and state. While I’m sure there are other community efforts happening behind the scenes, they are not apparent on their website or in their bulletin.

Church Follow-Up
There was a method to leave my contact information, but I chose not to do so.

Likelihood of Returning to the Church: Somewhat Likely
I would love to return to this location after a period of time to see if modifications and improvements were made in the overall Sunday worship experience. It feels like a work in progress with potential

Likelihood of Recommending the Church: Somewhat Likely
I may recommend this church to someone with children who is active in Christ and eager to learn and grow.

The Last Impression
Overall, my take is that this church is in a transition phase. My suggestions are to improve signage. Feeling disoriented and confused upon arrival at the church is not a pleasant start to the overall experience. They should also teach and guide volunteers to engage with newcomers. For the service itself, they need to modernize. While you can still remain traditional in some areas, transforming the contemporary service and environment into a welcoming space would make it more appealing.

Because of this mystery guest visit, this church is now aware of some opportunities for improvement. It’s okay to be a work in progress…most churches are! The important thing is to not let your guests continue to feel “lost” in your church. Do you want to know what guests experience at your church? Let Faith Perceptions find out for you. Our desire is to help churches become a welcoming and comfortable place for guests and the unchurched.

Tales of an Unchurched Mystery Guest

“I felt welcomed from the start…the people I interacted with seemed sincerely glad that I was there visiting.” (click to tweet)

Do you ever wonder why someone visits your church but doesn’t come back for a second visit? A lot of churches wonder the same thing. Our Mystery Guest Program helps you see your church through the eyes of a visitor and helps improve the hospitality experience for guests.

Each month we feature a unique first-time guest experience we’ve read about from one of the many mystery guests we send into churches. This month’s mystery guest experience comes from a 64-year-old unchurched male who visited a church in Houston recently… 

Is the Church Well-Known in the Area?
I stopped at a Shell Service Station approximately one mile from the church. I was unable to receive any info about the church where I stopped. The employee I spoke with was unaware of the church. The church might improve its community awareness by utilizing radio and newspaper ads and having church members get out and talk with the community at large.

Could You Find Your Way?
Upon entering at the main sign (clearly visible) the most helpful signage was for the visitor parking. I was able to pull in and park directly in front of the sanctuary entrance. I did not see a sign showing the worship times on the outside of the building. It may be helpful to post these times for people stopping by on days other than Sunday when the sanctuary is closed. Although I was able to locate the restroom upon entering, there were no signs directing me to its location. It would be more direct to have a sign with an arrow directing the way. I saw no signage for the Children’s/Youth Ministry other than an exterior sign for the education building. This is a very large campus and explicit signage showing the direction to each area of the church would be helpful.

The First Impression
Two men were standing at the entrance to the sanctuary and greeting each person as they approached the door. I was offered a “Good Morning, welcome,” and the door was opened for me. I am assuming these were volunteers. I was also greeted by a woman once I was seated in a pew. She was very friendly, made me feel welcome, and asked if I was a visitor. I saw later that she was the one who formally greeted the newcomers/visitors from the pulpit prior to the service beginning. I felt very welcome throughout the pre-service period starting with the greeting just prior to entering the sanctuary door. Once inside, everyone I saw acknowledged me, saying “Welcome” or “Good Morning.” I was very impressed with the woman who came over to greet me once I was seated in the pew. She was very friendly, warm, and upbeat. There was also time taken for everyone in attendance to stand and greet the people around them just before the service began.

Finding a Seat
The pews were beautifully designed and very comfortable with thick cushions. The sanctuary is very large and had ample seating choices. The use of large-screen monitors and loudspeakers provided easy sight and sound throughout the service.

The Music/Worship
The musicians and choir were well-rehearsed and did a good job with the music selections. The band consisted of a guitar, bass, and piano. It may be of benefit to include additional instruments. For example, drums, another guitar or violin, flute, etc. I would prefer a more contemporary sound.

 Greeting During the Service
I was impressed with the greeting I received during the service. There was a formal greeting from the pulpit for newcomers following which the congregation was asked to stand and greet the people around them. A suggestion is to ask visitors who are so inclined to meet after the service where volunteers would be available to answer any questions they may have and to meet some of the existing church members.

The Message
The sermon had to do with as we give back to others, we become less absorbed in our self-ego and it becomes a humbling experience.  The congregation was advised to keep a gratitude journal of people, places, churches, and books that have had a positive impact on their lives. It is easy to get caught up in self and ego in the daily cycle of life’s business and pressures and anxiety can abound. Taking time out to observe and sense the cycle of giving and receiving and giving of yourself to others can lessen the influence of the ego. A suggestion would be to include more examples and suggestions to lessen the strain of ego in our everyday lives.

The Speaker
The service included a speaker who read from the Bible and a woman who gave a formal greeting to visitors. Visual aids consisted of large video screens where music lyrics and Bible passages were displayed. A suggestion would be for the speaker to include some humor and more personal stories and anecdotes to increase interest in the sermon.

What About Kids?
The service I attended asked children to come to the front of the sanctuary to receive a special children’s message. It was effective and all in attendance were alert and interested. The message for the children was regarding giving, specifically putting money into the offering basket as it is passed around. An anecdote was described of a man who had no money, so he stepped inside the offering basket saying, “Lord, I have no money, so I am offering you my whole self.” I found this to be very descriptive. This was a very safe environment as the children met at the front of the sanctuary and were accompanied by their parents.

What Happened After the Service?
Everyone remained friendly as they filed out of the sanctuary, smiling and saying hello. Everyone seemed cheerful and in a positive mood following the sermon. A suggestion would be to have newcomers who are so inclined to meet with church members and answer any questions they may have.

Friendliness of the Church:
I felt welcomed from the start, having been greeted at the door before entering the sanctuary. The people I interacted with seemed sincerely glad that I was there visiting and, when asked to stand and greet our neighbors prior to the service start, I was warmly greeted. It would be especially nice if some who greeted me prior to the start of the service were to follow up with a conversation after the end of the service.

Information About the Church:
The website and social media are current and inclusive of all facets of church business and offerings including sections for newcomers, worship services, getting involved, ministries, events, groups, volunteer opportunities, resources, and media, “What We Believe,” directions, contacts, and a campus map. The directions and particularly the campus map are especially helpful to the first-time guest as the church has a very large campus. It may be helpful to have a method for a member to join one of the groups or volunteer opportunities online and a name and contact for those in charge of same. Talking with a staff member or church member would help me most in becoming familiar with the church as well as attending the groups and classes listed in the bulletin I was given at the visitor booth. Any questions one might have can be answered at the visitor booth. It was in the lobby of the sanctuary although I saw nobody attending the booth before the service began. It was, however, open after the service ended.

Outreach Opportunities
The church’s outreach programs are wide-ranging, including domestic and foreign. Some of the outreach efforts include a food pantry, elementary school tutoring, a mission to prevent and end homelessness for families with children in the school district, and a hospital in Kenya. Respite care is provided for the caregivers of Alzheimer’s, dementia, and stroke patients, and they have a partnership in Costa Rica. The church serves alongside a local church as they reach out to the community. It would be helpful to make more people aware of the various outreach programs in order to reach more volunteers and those in need of the services.

Church Follow-Up
There was a method to leave my contact information, but I chose not to do so.

Likelihood of Returning to the Church: Very Likely
This church has a lot to offer and I would definitely consider returning for future visits. The members and staff were welcoming, and I felt valued and relaxed during my visit. There is something for everyone here: volunteering options, classes, and groups of your choosing and much more.

Likelihood of Recommending the Church: Very Likely
I would highly recommend this church. It has everything to offer: programs, classes, groups, and volunteer groups. I found the congregation and staff to be particularly friendly and welcoming.

The Last Impression
It would be very helpful for the church to provide campus tours for newcomers. Pairing up a church member with a visitor on a one-to-one basis would be beneficial. I was impressed with the relaxed atmosphere and welcoming attitudes of the members and staff. I would suggest making the community more aware of the church through notices via newspaper, radio, or tv, so as to attract visitors and new members. The church has a lot to offer and people need to be made aware of it.

 

Because of this mystery guest visit, the church now knows that the guest felt very welcome, but there are still some opportunities for improvement. No church is perfect, right? Thanks to the perspective of this guest, the church has helpful suggestions for making the community more aware of its presence. Do you want to know what guests experience at your church? Let Faith Perceptions find out for you. Our desire is to help churches become a welcoming and comfortable place for guests and the unchurched.

Tales of an Unchurched Mystery Guest

The mystery guest reveals…“The atmosphere was very cold and not friendly. I smiled at people and no one smiled back or greeted me. No one really tried to engage us.”  

Do you ever wonder why some people visit your church and not return for a second or third visit? You aren’t the only one asking that question. Our Mystery Guest Program helps you see your church through the eyes of a visitor and will help strengthen your welcoming process so that when a guest does come, they feel welcome, accepted and want to return again. Click to Tweet

Each month we feature a unique first-time guest experience we’ve read about from one of the many mystery guests we send into churches. This month’s mystery guest experience comes from a 51-year-old unchurched female who visited a church in Indiana during Christmas time…

Is the Church Well-Known in the Area?
I stopped at a gas station about a mile and a half away from the church to ask for directions. Two of the people I asked knew right where I was talking about and one person had the church confused with another church in the area.

Could You Find Your Way?
The outside signs were really good and prominent letting us know in advance where to enter the church parking lot. The electronic sign was good for letting people know what is going on at church. I didn’t see a guest/visitor parking section. After driving in the parking lot, we were able to see where the entrance to the church was and found parking easily. Upon entry to the building, the sanctuary was on the right and we did not need signage necessarily to know where to go. The bathrooms are off the narthex and easily seen in that area and the information area was also in the narthex area to be seen, and signage for the fellowship hall was there too, but not seen right away. I did not see any signs for the children’s/youth ministries.

The First Impression
I was first greeted at the entrance by a greeter. The initial greeting was very nice, and I felt that the rest of the church must be very welcoming with as friendly as the greeters were, but no one else really acknowledged our presence. When we went to sit down, I smiled at the people in front of us and said hello, but they did not return the smile or a greeting. The atmosphere was very cold and not friendly. I smiled at people and no one smiled back or greeted me. No one really tried to engage us. Everyone had their people they talk to and that’s where they stayed. People should be more friendly to those they do not recognize.

Finding a Seat
Nothing really impacted me positively or negatively. It did seem that everyone had their space and where they always sit, but most churches have that issue. It made it a little difficult to find seating in the main area as people left just enough space between for their spacing and I felt like I could not approach there.

The Music/Worship
I liked the traditional service. They were having their Christmas Cantata the day I visited. Some of the singers in the Cantata seemed to be enjoying their presentation but overall there were no smiles or other expressions over the context of the music. I would expect a bit more excitement over the story of the birth of Christ. It was kind of stoic. I know it is a traditional service but there was just something missing.

Greeting During the Service
We felt very welcomed by the senior pastor’s welcome and greeting. There was not a formal welcome/greeting time between members and since we weren’t really greeted before, I think it would have been awkward, but at the same time, I kept thinking maybe that time is when the congregation members will speak with us, which would have been nice. At one point, the choral couple returned to their seats after their performance and I smiled and said it was lovely, but it was if they looked right through me. Overall, the greeting during the service was good and we felt welcomed by the staff, if not the members.

The Message
The message was the Cantata and about the hope for Christmas and the birth of Jesus. The message and the Cantata were good. I would have liked to have seen the choir have more feeling and bring the congregation in more to see some joy at the birth of our Savior.

The Speaker
The choir just didn’t seem to engage the congregation and didn’t seem joyous over the birth of Christ. An appropriately placed smile would definitely have helped. I liked that the words to what the choir was singing were printed in the bulletin.

What About Kids?
I didn’t see where the children’s area was so that was difficult to find. The children seemed excited about going up for the children’s message and to go to their classes. I liked the pictures they showed during the youth portion but would have liked to have known where, when, and what the kids were doing.

What Happened After the Service?
The mood was very cool. Some congratulations were given to the choir but everyone pretty much stuck to their own groups or exited the church. The senior pastor was very friendly, greeting everyone he could as they left. He spent a good amount of time with people, not too long holding up the line and not shoving people off either. He did acknowledge us as we left with a handshake. I think they could improve the post-service by coming up and speaking with us after the service. Perhaps tell us about the fellowship time or whatever happens in the hall. Maybe invite us the next Sunday or ask if we liked the program.

Friendliness of the Church
We just didn’t really feel welcomed. A returned smile would have been nice. Just smiling would improve the experience a lot.

Information About the Church
The website was excellent. I thought that the church experience would be just as good, if not better. The information was good and easily found on the website. I looked at the church’s Facebook page and it looks like a really involved and fun church to be a part of. It seemed that the church is very involved and has a lot of activities going on, but it didn’t seem like an active church when I was at the service. The information area had people around it before the service and following the service, but it was surrounded by others waiting or speaking to members of the choir, so I really didn’t get to see what was there.

Outreach Opportunities
It seems like they are working to expand into the community. With all of these things going on, I would have expected a lot friendlier church. They seem like caring and nice people, especially from the things they have on the website and in the bulletin, but it just didn’t feel welcoming in person.

Church Follow-Up
I was not able to find a way to leave my contact information.

Likelihood of Returning to the Church: Somewhat Likely
I really liked the senior pastor’s children’s message and would like to hear him preach. It wasn’t a very friendly experience, but everyone has an off day. It was a different service than normal, and I would like to see if more people would reach out to say hello.

Likelihood of Recommending the Church: Somewhat Likely
The church seems to be really involved in trying to reach out to the community and they seem to have a good youth program. Hopefully, I attended on an off day and the members are usually more welcoming.

The Last Impression
It was a very nice service and has a lot of positives, but I would suggest the congregation smile and communicate with visitors more.

Because of this mystery guest visit, the church knows that a first-time guest did not feel welcomed and they have opportunities to improve the guest experience. Making a guest feel welcome no matter when they visit is important, but it’s even more important during times such as Christmas, Easter and other times when you are likely to see more first-time guests. Do you want to know what guests experience at your church? Let Faith Perceptions find out for you. Our desire is to help churches become a welcoming and comfortable place for guests and the unchurched.

 

Why Your Church Should Live Stream for the Holidays

We’ve entered the month of November, so you know what that means….it’s time to talk about your church’s Christmas ministry. By now, you’ve probably already started thinking about how to welcome first-time guests that may be visiting your church during the holiday season. However, there’s one thing you possibly haven’t thought about to engage people in your Christmas message.

Live streaming.

Before you dismiss this idea because it’s something new and different, hear me out. There are multiple reasons why live streaming your service may be a great option for your church this holiday season.

It’s the Busiest Time of the Year. People are busy. They may not think they have time tolightstock_115965_full_kate attend a holiday service, but they might be willing to listen to/watch one. Make your service something people can participate in when they can’t be there in person. A live stream service also helps individuals who work overnight, Sunday mornings, or holiday shifts and simply can’t attend in person.

Boost Your Social Media Following. This time of year, people start looking for a church to visit on Christmas. Potential first-time guests are more likely to visit your website or social media page before they visit your actual church. Streaming your service allows potential guests to see what your church is like. Your live streams can show the sincerity, authentic worship, and a general sense of what your church is like in real time.

Connection. I love when my questions get answered. You probably do too, right? If you’re live streaming, a member of your church staff can respond to any questions that come up in the comments section. It’s basically another great chance to connect with guests before the holiday season. There’s also a different type of community that can develop amongst your online viewers. They start to recognize each other’s usernames and begin to build up a level of comfort with one another. They may even decide to attend an actual service together…who knows?

More Connection. In case you can’t tell, having people feel connected to one anotherlightstock_173620_full_kate during the holidays is important to me. During this time of year, I always think about families who can’t be together. Whether it’s military families with a loved one stationed overseas or a family that lives far apart and can’t travel, your church can help them feel connected to one another. By live streaming your Christmas service, these families can tune in and participate in your service together at the same time. This is a small thing that can help them feel closer. What a cool thing for your church to be a part of, right?

Outreach. The holiday season can be a difficult time of year for a lot of people. There are people in your area who may want to attend a Christmas church service, but are alone, sick, can’t get out of the house, etc. Live streaming your service gives your church the ability to let the surrounding community participate in your service and extend who gets to hear the beautiful story of the birth of our Savior.

Please hear me say that I know this will take work. You will need the proper equipment, your lighting and sound might need to be tweaked, your church may need to invest in better internet, and you’ll need someone available to monitor the live stream to answer questions, just to name a few things. But it will be worth it. Start working now and make your Christmas services available to everyone.

Still not convinced? Check out more reasons on this blog from Clover Sites.

Tales of an Unchurched Mystery Guest: Part 2

The mystery guest reveals…“The way this congregation treated us was one of the most comforting experiences I have ever had with any church.”

Do you ever wonder why some people visit your church and not return for a second or third visit? Our Mystery Guest Program helps your church see themselves through the eyes of a visitor and can help strengthen your welcoming process so that when a guest does come, they feel welcome, accepted and want to return again.

Each month we feature a unique guest experience we’ve read about from one of the many mystery guests we send into churches. This month’s mystery guest experience comes from a 44-year-old unchurched female who visited a church in Minnesota…

Is the Church Well-Known in the Area?
I stopped at a convenience store about 12 blocks from the church. Two people were aware of the church and could point me in the right direction, but that was all I was able to get.

Could You Find Your Way?
The first thing I noticed was that you had to kind of guess how to get behind the church to the parking lot because there were no signs. Across from the church was a really big parking lot, but that too had no signage. The outside sign indicated the name of the church and had the service times which was very helpful, however, when you walk into the building, you’re immediately faced with stairs going up and stairs going down. There were signs that pointed to the children’s/youth ministries downstairs, but I did not see any signs pointing towards the worship area, which made it confusing.

The First Impression
A woman initially greeted us and walked us into the area of worship. The church was not very big, and it seemed like everyone that was there were “family” people of a much older generation who had known each other forever. It was clear we were new, yet everyone completely embraced us being there. All others were smiling or making small talk with us. It seemed like they just accepted us as being there for the same reasons they were.

Finding a Seat
I really enjoyed the fact that the pews were cushioned. I also enjoyed the breathing space because it wasn’t packed. The pews were also set far enough apart to allow for sufficient leg room. It seems that comfort, along with hospitality, is also a priority for the church.

The Music/Worship
The organ playing was great. The three women singing, however, did not do well. They seemed distracted and kept losing their spot or were not able to hit some notes, so they would just stop singing altogether and laugh a little bit. The pastor seemed annoyed by this at one point. It was neither a positive or negative experience, it was just different and unexpected for a church choir.

 In-Service Greeting
The pastor welcomed everyone and then requested that we all sign the “Ritual of Friendship” books that were located next to the hymn books and then had everyone stand and greet their neighbor. It was an interesting experience and a nice change.

The Message
The message was somewhat hard for me to make sense of. This was not a good experience because I really like to understand, or at least try my best to understand, a point someone is trying to make. There was no way around this one for me, so it was frustrating.

The Speaker
There were two speakers. The female did the majority of the talking until the actual sermon began. The male speaker validated what she was saying. I rated the speakers’ delivery as somewhat poor because I could not understand the message, so I found it to be frustrating and not engaging. It was also somewhat hard to hear at times.

What About Kids?
The children’s ministries were not taking place while we were there, however, I did see it announced on their website. There was also a nursery announcement in the bulletin. I did not see any children other than the few that were in the worship area, nor was anything announced about it at any time during the service. My impression in this area is neutral as I did not get to experience any of it first-hand. There were maybe six kids there, and three of them were with me.

What Happened After the Service?
Everyone was still happy and talking with each other and not trying to push each other down just to get out of the door. I was also very impressed with the pastor remembering our names at the end. In my opinion, this experience could not get any better. The pastor and a few others invited us for cake and coffee. I could tell they really wanted to talk and get to know us.

Friendliness of the Church
The friendliness of this congregation went above and beyond anything I have ever experienced with a church. These people are 100% genuine and sincere.

Information About the Church
I did not find any social media sites for the church. All information on their website was up to date, although a few of their links did not work. It explained quite a lot and had links to provide further explanations in areas such as a sacrament, which is excellent for newcomers. The only suggestion I have here is to better explain the women’s groups and the mission of helping women and their children. I really wanted to learn more about their programs. One suggestion would be to have a prepared welcome packet ready to offer new people or visitors as soon as they are greeted.

Outreach Opportunities
I personally believe the church is doing an excellent job in their efforts to create a relationship with their community. They step up and are willing to help in any crisis no matter what. Nobody is turned away.

Church Follow-Up
I only left my first and last name as well as my city, state, and zip code, including those of my daughters and my nephew, in the friendship book.

Overall Experience
I am a non-believer, so to say that my overall experience with this church was startlingly impressive is something I never thought I would ever say about any church. I have learned a lot about this particular church over the last few days, but to see and experience it all first-hand is way different than just reading about it. I am still solid in my non-belief, however, the way this congregation treated us was one of the most comforting experiences I have ever had with any church.

Likelihood of Return: Likely
My overall experience and appreciation for this experience would be the deciding factor to go back. I can only hope that future guests will be able to walk away with as much as my girls and I have (and we are non-believers), which was simply being treated with basic human decency and genuine importance. It is also worth mentioning that this was the very first time my girls have ever stepped foot in a church.

Likelihood of Recommending the Church: Likely
I would definitely want others to experience what my children and I did today.

The Last Impression
Most churches, in my experience, had cast some sort of judgment and made me feel like I was invisible. It was surprising when we experienced the opposite. The people at this church didn’t know us, had never seen us before, and certainly had no idea that we were not believers, yet they accepted us immediately.

Because of this mystery guest visit, the church knows they treat first-time guests well, but they have also identified opportunities to improve. Do you want to know what guests experience at your church? Let Faith Perceptions find out for you. Our desire is to help churches become a welcoming and comfortable place for guests and the unchurched.

Tales Of An “Unchurched” Mystery Guest

man alone in churchThe guest reveals… “This is the first church I have ever been to where I felt weird about going to a new church.”

It is not uncommon for a church to see a new face on Sunday or for some churches many new faces.  Do you ever wonder why some people do or don’t return for a second or third visit? We did too. Through our Mystery Guest Program we find people that aren’t regularly attending church and send them to church so that we can learn from their experiences. Each month we feature a unique guest experience.

Here are the first impressions of a 30-yr. old “unchurched” female who attended church services at a church in Louisiana.

Is the church well-known in the area?

Based on the number of people I stopped and asked it’s not very well known. Two out of the three people asked didn’t know whether it was downtown or on the left or the right side of the road.

Could you find your way?

The main sign for the church was on the front lawn and they had a banner out front, as well, informing about the contemporary service. I saw a sign that said fellowship but there were no specifics as to where church parking was, or which door would take me exactly where I needed to go. The windows were all tinted, so I couldn’t see inside to find where the correct place was I needed to go. It would have made it easier and better to navigate if all main locations were on one sign and arrows directing the way.

The first impression:

This is the first church I’ve ever been to where I felt weird about going to a new church. The church atmosphere starting from the outside wasn’t very inviting. There wasn’t anyone standing at the door, or any door for that matter, to greet anyone. It almost looked like a school on the inside. The janitor was the only person I saw walking through the halls and even he looked at me like I wasn’t supposed to be there. I had to ask him where the fellowship hall was located. I walked into the fellowship hall and there was no one at the door like at other churches handing out bulletins, or even greeting guests. There were boxes of donuts as soon as you walk through the doors of the fellowship hall. I looked around for a table with bulletins or some sort of information and all I found was a table in the back with coloring pages for children and a paper with a list of events for the month and the times of service through the week, etc. I didn’t have anyone come up to me to greet me or speak to me.

Finding a seat:

There was plenty of good seating where I wanted to sit, and the seats were comfortable. The small number of people attending though made me feel like the church isn’t growing. I simply took a seat in the back after picking up the papers I did find. I didn’t feel very comfortable at all like I think I should in a church. I think they may have a better turn out if there were some type of interaction with the guests.

The music/worship:

I liked the style of worship music played and sung. It was more of today’s contemporary style. There wasn’t anything specific that I’d say impacted me really any different than any other service I’ve attended.

In-service greeting:

The Pastor instructed people to say hello to everyone. The pastor opened the service by saying good morning to everyone. There wasn’t any specific or special welcome, just a brief explanation of the agenda for that morning.

The message:

The message was mainly about the graduating students of 2018 and about making choices. The message was based on making the right decisions in life and knowing what’s right and what’s wrong and how our decisions will affect our daily lives. I really don’t have any suggestions on how they could have made the message better. I’d say they touched on the relative basis of our everyday lives.

The speaker:

The Pastor was the main speaker for most of the service and the one who delivered the message. I felt as if she was sincere and encouraging and felt very confident about her message.

What about kids?

It seemed as if they were very engaged with the children’s/youth ministries based on the pictures, posts and videos of the children’s activities and learnings that I came across on the website and social media. I was glad to see that the children and youth were active in the church. I didn’t really think that a coloring page should be handed out with what they call bulletins. I think the children should probably have a separate service during this time where they would have a message (same as the adults) but it would be better explained and broken down to where they are able to fully comprehend everything being taught.

What happened after the service?

I wasn’t acknowledged as a guest or a visitor. Everyone once again congregated amongst themselves as the younger youth and kids all rushed out of the hall. I would suggest that in the future they should have a greeter at the doors at the end of service, as well as before, thanking the guests for coming and inviting them back and ask them if they had any questions, maybe even offering them the contact information for someone who would be able to connect with guests.

Friendliness of the church:

I would say that the overall friendliness of the congregation was neutral. I didn’t encounter anyone jumping with joy for having a new visitor, nor did I receive any negative vibes or interaction.

Information about the church:

Online there was information about what services they offer as far as children’s church and the youth groups including what time they meet and what activities they have this month and this summer. At the church, I didn’t find too much information as I thought I would have in a bulletin or flyer. I did, however, find a paper that had prayer requests on it and the upcoming services and a coloring page for kids. It may also be a good idea to add another section in the bulletin that gives a summary of each service, such as the order in which things will be discussed and or presented. That may make the visitors feel a little more welcome and comfortable and want to come back because of the positive feeling they felt during the first visit.

Outreach opportunities:

I don’t recall any outreach mentioned or talked about. They may think about coming up with some ideas and/or events to help develop their relationship with the community, such as a yard sale or bake sale or even a festival type event. I didn’t see much information regarding any type of outreach.

Church follow-up:

The church had a way for me to leave my contact info for additional information or follow-up, but I decided not to leave it.

Overall experience:

My experience was somewhat poor. I suggest they get involved more with guests and the community. They seem like they may be a little closed-in.

Likelihood of return: unlikely

They didn’t seem very welcoming to new guests. They may just be used to their own members. But I would feel more likely to return if they were more inviting and had more to offer as far as events to help spread the word on what they are about and how they want to help the community.

Likelihood of recommending the church: unlikely

There wasn’t much life or involvement from this church that really stood out to me and made an impact for me to want to return or recommend this church to others.

The last impression:

My experience was somewhat poor. I suggest they get involved more with guests and the community. They seem like they may be a little closed-in.

With the help of the mystery guest program, this church is now aware of its strengths and its opportunities to improve the first-time guest experience.  Curious what guests are thinking when they leave your church? Let Faith Perceptions find out for you. Our desire is to help churches become a welcoming place for guests and church that invites the unchurched.

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. 

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  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.