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.

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.

Contagious Worship

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

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


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


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


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

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

This type of worship can be truly contagious, even if being very involved in worship is outside of someone’s comfort zone. One mystery guest said this: “People throughout the sanctuary were singing and dancing happily. I sang my heart out, which I don’t ordinarily do because I often don’t hear anyone around me singing in church and feel too self-conscious to belt it out. Not here!”


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

5 Ways to Keep Ministries Alive in the Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

keeping ministries alive summer (2) (2)

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Church Outreach and Why It’s Not Working

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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