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 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.