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.

3 Ways to Honor the Whole Family this Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is one of the most highly attended holidays, coming in third behind Easter and Christmas. Why is it such a popular holiday to attend church? One probable reason lightstock_340788_full_kateis many moms tell their family all they want for Mother’s Day is to have everyone attend worship together. Another is it’s a simple, yet meaningful way to honor mom. Although most churches do a great job of honoring moms on this holiday, they fail to make the whole family feel welcome. Fortunately, you can honor moms while also honoring the rest of their family.

Be Inclusive

No matter how you choose to incorporate Mother’s Day into your Sunday service, remember to honor moms in all stages of life. Some women are trying, and perhaps struggling, to have a child. New moms may be struggling with all the changes and adjustments that occur as a new parent, some of which can be especially hard such as post-partum depression. Others may have lost a child. There are stepmothers and adoptive mothers. Others have young children or teenagers, while some are empty nesters. Some women have healthy children while others have a child with an illness or disability. By honoring all types of mothers, you’re honoring each family and the many different blessings and challenges they face.

Honor the Kids

Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate mothers, but keep in mind that not everyone in attendance is a mother. You may also have adult children who have lost their mother or lightstock_325774_full_katehave a strained relationship with her. Some of your attendees may now be their mother’s primary caregiver due to an illness or disability. Adopted children may long to know their biological mother.

Be just as inclusive when talking about children as you are when talking about mothers. Acknowledge their struggles and hardships. Honor their losses and grief. Being a mother isn’t always easy, and neither is being a child. These relationships are complicated, so recognize that. In doing so, you’ll make everyone in attendance feel welcomed and accepted in your congregation, which may make them feel more comfortable returning for worship on non-holidays.

Share & Connect

Honoring mothers and their children is important, but you also need to find ways to connect with them on a personal level. There are several ways to share and connect:

Increase the number of people serving on Mother’s Day. This is a highly attended service and we read often in our Mystery Guest Reports how guests are ignored because the church is so much busier than they are accustomed to being. lightstock_169732_medium_kate

Prepare your volunteers. Coach your first impression teams in the parking lot, at the door, and anywhere else to be cheerful yet sensitive to all your guests on this day.

Include personal testimonies. Consider asking in advance if a few mothers (or their children) would like to share their experiences and journey in faith with everyone. This could be done by video or live.

Give them something to come to. Plan a future family-friendly event they can participate in, like a spring festival or fair. The mothers in the congregation can pull the “mom card” one more time and ask the family to come.

Don’t forget to follow up with mothers and their families in the days and weeks to come. Ensure they know they’re welcome back and suggest programs or events that might interest them. For example, new parents may be interested in bringing their children to Sunday school, so they can enjoy fellowship with other parents.

Honor moms this Mother’s Day, but don’t forget to honor all moms—and their kids—by providing them support and making them feel welcome and accepted year-round. If you aren’t sure how effective the services you provide mothers and their families are, consider our mystery guest program. Through this program, we send mystery guests into your church to provide unbiased feedback on a broad spectrum of services, from parking lot volunteers to Sunday school. You can then use this feedback to improve and better serve your community. Contact us today to get started.

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.

6 Ways to Boost Post-Easter Engagement

You probably already know Easter is the highest-attended church service of the year. Hopefully you’ve prepared your church and website to ensure guests can easily find you this Easter and that they feel welcome when they attend your services. If you don’t have a proper follow-up plan in place, however, attendance will drop again in the weeks that follow. To keep guests and non-regulars coming back for more, create and implement a follow-up strategy using the suggestions below.

Boost Your Post-Easter Engagement

1. Draw them Back In

Don’t let your Easter sermon stand alone. Consider making it into an intriguing series that will pique the interest of your guests. At some point during the service or church announcements, tell the congregation what they can expect to hear during next week’s sermon. Choose topics that address the real-life struggles your attendees and visitors may be facing, such as divorce or addiction. The more relevant the topic, the more likely guests are to return.

2. Provide Details for Future Serviceslightstock_80197_full_kate

Many churches offer additional worship times for their Easter services to accommodate the larger number of attendees. This can lead to some confusion for guests who want to return but did not attend a standard worship time. Make sure your guests know exactly what time worship will be held in the coming weeks, along with any other information they may need, like where to park or Sunday school times.

3. List How to Connect

List all your contact information in several locations, such as on a guest information card and in any bulletins or brochures you hand out. Be sure to include any relevant phone numbers and email addresses, plus how to sign up for an e-newsletter and where they can find you on Facebook and other social media platforms. The more options you give them to connect, the more likely they are to do so.

4. Get their Contact Information

lightstock_115845_full_kateDespite giving guests numerous ways to connect with you, they may not want to “make the first move”, so it’s important to get their information in return. Consider leaving guest cards in every seat or put them in the bulletin, asking for their name, email, address, and phone number along with their preferred contact method. To encourage guests to fill these out, offer them an incentive such as a gift or a small donation made in their name to a particular charity.

5. Make the Connection

Getting contact information from your guests is only half the battle. You have to actually use that information if you want to make the connection and turn those visitors into regular attendees. Put a plan in place to follow-up with every guest who left their information. Connect within 24 to 48 hours of receiving their information. Ask how they liked the Easter services and ensure they know the time and place for next Sunday. If they provided an address, consider mailing them additional information on your church and the various ways they can get involved.

6. Stay Connected

lightstock_319320_full_kateDon’t forget about your guests after you make that first connection! You don’t want to bombard them with so many emails that they unsubscribe, but you also don’t want to give up after the first try. You never know when that one touch will happen at just the right time and drive them to come back to your church. So add guests to your monthly newsletter, send them invitations to upcoming events, and keep them informed of special services coming up. For more ideas on following up with your church visitors go here.

Every church sees a bump in attendance on Easter Sunday, but due to poor planning and lack of follow-up, attendance drops again in the weeks that follow. Don’t squander your opportunity to connect with newcomers and turn them into regular attendees. Our mystery guest program has shown just how effective those follow-ups are:


“I received a follow-up card a few days after my visit, from the pastor. It was a nice handwritten note thanking us for visiting and inviting us to come again.”


If you’d like to find out just how well you’re connecting with visitors, our mystery guest program can provide you with the unbiased feedback you’re looking for. These mystery guests will come into your church and evaluate everything from the parking lot to the greeters to any follow-up they receive after leaving their information. They report back on how well your church performs in each of these areas so you can make adjustments to better connect with future visitors.

How to Make Your Church Easier to Find this Easter

Easter is the highest-attended church service each year and Google searches for “church” spike in the weeks leading up to the holiday. People that don’t attend regularly but try to show up on holidays and special occasions will go looking for a church nearby. Your church could be exactly what they need on Easter and beyond, but will they be able to find you online? Moreover, will they find the information they need to feel comfortable coming to your church? If not, consider the steps below to make your church easy to find and attractive to newcomers this Easter.

Clean Up Your Website

startup-photosFor many potential visitors, the website is their first impression of your church. Is yours cluttered and lacking a clear site structure or is information easy to find and placed in logical locations? Proper site structure makes it easy for visitors to navigate your site and find the information they need, but it’s also crucial to showing up in Google search results in the first place. A well-organized site improves search engine optimization (SEO) and ensures Google understands who you are and what you do. You’re more likely to show up in searches with a clean and organized website, and visitors are more likely to peruse it for information. Make sure all the information they need, particularly for Easter services and other special occasions, is easy to find.

Evaluate Your Name

What’s in a name? According to Matt Morrison, if your online name doesn’t include the word “church”, Google may not recognize you as one. So, if your name is “St. John’s”, you might not show up if someone searches “churches near me”. Adding “church” to the end of your name is a simple way to make sure you show up in those search results. While you’re at it, update your Google business account to ensure the right name, location, and hours are listed, along with contact information and your web address. The information should not only be correct, but it should also reflect the information on your “contact” page on your website. (You do have a “contact” page, right?)

Provide Clear Directions

choose-the-right-direction-1536336_1920Helping potential Easter attendees find you online is only half the battle; you have to help them find your physical location as well. Provide clear directions on your website so newcomers can easily find their way. Better yet, embed a map on your contact page. Visitors can simply click on the map and get directions to your location from wherever they are. Plus, an embedded map can further improve your search rankings. A mystery guest at one church said:

“Prior to my visit, I checked the church’s website. I also used Google maps to determine their location. It was easy to find, both on Google and Google maps.” – church visitor

Promote Your Church

lightstock_231553_full_kateYou can restructure your website, update your name, and add a map to your contact page, but if you aren’t advertising, you still may not be easy to find this Easter. If you’ve long-held the belief that marketing is “bad”, it’s time to change your perspective. Instead of viewing marketing as “good” or “bad”, view it as the tool it is, and learn to use it. Post regularly on Facebook and your other social media pages, and try promoted posts, particularly those pertaining to Easter. Doing so will get the post—and your church—in front of more people, and they may feel inspired to spend their holiday with you.

You’re bound to see some new faces at your Easter services, but the easier you are to find online, the more new faces you’ll see. If you’re curious how and where your website is showing up in search results and whether or not it’s attracting visitors, we can help. Our mystery guest program sends thousands of guests to churches across the country to evaluate everything from their websites to parking to the atmosphere, and more. You can use this unbiased feedback to make changes that will make guests feel welcome, accepted and want to return.

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

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

3 Reasons to Form a Parking Lot Ministry

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

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

2. Keep Traffic Moving Smoothly Before & After Services

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

3. Farewell Impressions

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

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

 

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

8 Things a Visitor Wants to See on Your Church Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the past 10 years, churches have hired us to find people who don’t regularly attend services to visit as first-time guests. The goal: to help churches see things through the eyes of a visitor. In the last year alone, we read over 1,000 first-time guest experiences at churches of all sizes, from small to mega, in every part of the country, and every denomination. Some of the responses made us laugh; others made us cringe. So here they are: the best and worst of 2017. Enjoy!

Best

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

Greeter

2.  “Best website I’ve ever seen from a church, or any organization for that matter. I knew exactly where to go today because the website has a feature where it gives you a first-person view of walking into the church, what you will see, and then walking you into the main worship area. Wow.”

3.  “People throughout the sanctuary were singing and dancing happily. I sang my heart out, which I don’t ordinarily do because I often don’t hear anyone around me singing in church, so I feel too self-conscious to belt it out. Not here!”

lightstock_124988_full_kate

4.  As I got out of the car, an older gentleman came over and walked me to the door with an umbrella over my head so I wouldn’t get wet. I felt very welcome.”

5.  “I was genuinely greeted, and it made me feel special and appreciated, like they truly cared about me being there. It made me want to return, especially after a hard weekend.”

Worst

1.  “I had someone get upset with me while I was leaving the church parking lot because I didn’t exit fast enough. The person behind me became very upset and began to honk their horn repeatedly. Had I just driven into the street, I would have been in an accident! Being polite and patient should extend into the community, not just within the church building.”

Driver

2.  “A lady tried to connect with me by talking about race since I was obviously a different race from everyone else in the church. She asked if I felt uncomfortable because I stood out racially among the crowd. After that she asked me if I needed money for lunch and other things.”

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

4.  “When I sat down, a very nice lady came to tell me that I was sitting in their pew. I was willing to move, but the pew was quite large, and they said they like to sit in the middle.”

Ignored

5.  “Finally, after the third time of butchering my first name, the greeter said, “Your people’s mother’s give you very creative names that no one can remember. But it’s a beautiful name.”

Making visitors feel welcome is the cornerstone of any organization or business that wants to be successful, and churches are no different. When you make guests to your church feel both welcomed and accepted when they visit, you increase their likelihood of returning week after week.

Where do you think your church would fall on this list? Would you be in the best category or the worst? If you’re concerned you might fall in the latter category, consider getting some unbiased feedback from us. We send mystery guests (people who don’t regularly attend church) into churches every weekend to attend services and report back on their experiences. This information helps churches like yours improve how they welcome and connect with visitors. To learn more, visit http://www.mysteryguestprogram.com.

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.