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.

8 Best Practices for Welcoming Church Guests this Easter

Easter is the highest attended service of the year, which means more people are likely to visit your church on this day than any other. 

Here are the best ways to engage and connect with your guests:

  1. The Front Door – Your church website is usually a person’s first point of contact. Scan your site and make sure it’s guest friendly. Check to see that worship times, directions, and what to expect at your church are easy to find. Go here for how to make your website guest-friendly.
  2. Parking Ministry – Hospitality begins in the parking lot and while most people don’t need help finding a place to park, we know from a decade of research that our mystery guests rate their overall experience higher in churches with parking ministries.
  3. More Hands on Deck – Increase your capacity for hospitality by adding more Easter 2019 1volunteers to welcome new faces before and AFTER the service to help them get where they need to go.
  4. Seating – Plan for overflow and extra seating. In the weeks leading up to Easter, encourage regulars to make room for guests by attending an earlier service since guests are more likely to attend a later service on their first visit.
  5. Kids’ Ministry – Many of those new faces you see will be families who won’t know what you offer for kids or where they should take them. That means your Kids’ Ministry needs to ramp up as well to help check kids in, answer questions, and guide families to their destinations.
  6. Information – Mention during the service where guests can go to get more information about the church and how to get plugged in. When a guest has the information needed to take next steps, they’re more likely to take them.
  7. Tell them what’s coming next week – Follow Easter up with a seeker friendly message series that covers relevant topics. Highlight this information at services so guests learn about it. The goal in this is to generate interest while they are with you and get them to return.
  8. Follow-up – Too many guests in our research report leaving their contact Easter 2019 2information with the church and never hearing from them. We cringe every time we read about it. Nothing says you’re not interested more than asking for contact information and never contacting them. The key to good follow-up is to be intentional about it and don’t wait. Go here for when and how to follow up.

Easter is important, but making people feel welcome at every service is also important and it starts the moment they call, visit your website, or pull into your parking lot. If you’re ready to create a hospitable culture and an experience that leaves people feeling welcome, accepted, and wanting to return, we have the tools to help you.

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.

5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Church Website More Welcoming to Visitors

Thanks to all the technology at our fingertips, people are more likely to check out a business or organization’s website before they ever step foot in their physical location. This means potential visitors are scoping out your church website and using the information they find there to decide whether or not they want to visit. Your website’s most important job is to welcome newcomers. Below are 5 simple things you can do to make your website a more welcoming place to potential church guests.

1. Define Your Audience

Is your website overloaded with information? You may be thinking “Of course! Why wouldn’t it be?” Well, too much information is overwhelming to newcomers. All that info is great for your existing church members, but they’re not your focus. The goal of any good website is to connect with its target audience. For churches, that’s people who aren’t already a member. Maybe they’ve never been to church or they’re looking for a new church. Either way, you need to make sure you’re speaking to them and giving them only the essentials. Which leads us to our next point.

2. Give ‘Em the “Inside Scoop”

Your regular churchgoers know that the “Ascent” ministry is for college-aged young lightstock_435447_full_kate.jpgadults or that “Move” refers to your spiritual formation or Sunday school. Newcomers won’t have any idea what those words mean, though. These terms are common knowledge for insiders, but they can alienate your potential visitors. This doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with the names of your ministries. It simply means those names shouldn’t come without an explanation of what they mean. Giving this information freely to potential visitors will make them feel more confident when they decide to attend your services.

3. Have a “New to [Insert Your Church Name Here}” Section

If you haven’t already done so, create a page on your website that’s dedicated entirely to visitors. This page should offer up specific information about worship times and locations, directions, parking, kids’ ministry, where they can find guest information, and contact details. Don’t shy away from other details either. Guests will appreciate knowing whether they should show up in their Sunday best or if jeans are acceptable. The more specific you can be here, the better, but remember: don’t overload this page with information. Potential guests don’t need to know about your sports leagues or fundraisers. They need to know where to go, how to get there, and what time they should be there. For more ideas about what to include on your visitor page, click here.

4. Include Visual Content

Visual content drives engagement. In fact, nearly 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. People don’t just want to visit your site; they want to experience it. Adding high-resolution, quality images or videos to your website will give potential guests a feel for who you are. Whenever possible, avoid stock photos. Show your visitors actual photos of the inside of your church, your members, and worship services. Not only will this help them feel more comfortable when they arrive, but it also makes your website more enjoyable to peruse. Without those images and videos, your church website tells visitors you’re, well, boring.

5. Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

Did you know nearly 60% of the traffic to your website comes from a smartphone or lightstock_173620_full_katetablet? Even if a potential guest already checked your website out from their desktop at home, they’ll probably pull your webpage up on their phone to get your address or directions as they’re headed out the door. Your site needs to be mobile friendly so it’s easy for them to find the information they need quickly. If they have to click a bunch of links or zoom in or out, they may become discouraged and give up entirely.

When was the last time you took a look at your website? Have you ever checked to see how it looks on your smartphone? Do yourself a favor and go take a peek. Then have someone else take a look, too. Find areas where you can improve and incorporate the above tips to make your website more visitor friendly. A clean, organized website shows your guests you care about making them feel welcome. As a result, they’ll be more likely to actually come visit your church.

If you’re worried your church website is making a bad first impression, our mystery guest program can help. We send people who don’t attend church regularly into churches as mystery guests, and we have them start with the website. In addition to finding out how your website is performing with potential guests, you’ll also learn a lot of other valuable information about how welcome visitors feel when they attend your services.

The Do’s & Don’ts of Church Announcements

Church announcements are an essential component for building and sustaining your church community, but there’s a right and wrong way to do them. Over the years, we’ve seen multiple complaints about lengthy or irrelevant announcements in our mystery guest reports. One guest reported,

“The church spent eight minutes passing the mic around for announcements and another eight minutes giving ‘family updates’ (joys and concerns). I felt like I was at a social club rather than worship.”

Making a few short announcements from the pulpit is a great way to communicate the same message to everyone at once. If they’re too long, however, you risk putting people to sleep or seeing them leave early. To ensure your church announcements are informative, yet concise, here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

Do:

  • Be brief. The congregation is there for the main attraction—The Gospel—not to lightstock_378331_full_katelisten to 10+ minutes of announcements. Keep them as brief as possible, otherwise they’re merely a frustrating distraction.
  • Focus on the essentials. Don’t try to cram a bunch of details into your church announcements—no one will remember them. Instead, focus on what matters most: the event, time, and place. Those are the most important things people need to know.
  • Have engaging volunteers share announcements. These volunteers should not only want to share these announcements, but they should be excited to do so. Their excitement will show, making the process—and the information—more enjoyable and memorable for everyone.
  • Invite people to join. Instead of asking people to participate in an event, invite them. Rather than saying something like, “We need volunteers to help serve dinner to the homeless,” say “Our church is blessed each month to serve meals to the homeless and you are invited to take part.” Be sure to also include where they need to go for more information.

Don’t:

  • Forget your guests. As you saw with the mystery guest quote earlier, church announcements can turn an okay experience into a negative one. Your announcements should always include a welcome to guests, as well as information on how they can get connected.
  • Avoid insider language. You want to be brief, but don’t be so brief that only a few people know what you’re talking about. Make sure you include essential information, like a contact person or where to find out more, like on the church website. Don’t assume your guests—or even regularly attending members—will know where to find that information.
  • Stick to a singular platform. One size does not fit all. Every generation has their Website Viewing on Smartphonepreferred communication style, so you’ll need more than one platform to make your announcements. In addition to your in-church announcements, you may also want to consider videos or rotating slides playing before and after service, bulletin, emails, and even social media.
  • Leave out the good stuff. We’re deluged with bad news and people are constantly asking us for something, all of which is exhausting. Remember to include some good news in your church announcements that everyone can celebrate.

“The worship pastor gave announcements about the connection card, how to share joys/concerns, and other announcements that were on a monitor at the front of the church. I really liked that the announcements were done first. This prevented anything from being done once the service officially started that would have interrupted the worship mindset.”

Your church announcements don’t have to be long and boring, and your members and guests will probably thank you for making them shorter and more exciting.

Is your congregation snoozing through the announcements or are guests left scratching their heads in confusion? Our mystery guest program can help you find out. We send unchurched mystery guests or mystery worshippers into churches of all denominations all over the country to provide unbiased feedback. Armed with this feedback, you’ll know exactly which areas your church excels in and which areas need work.