Why Your Church Should Live Stream for the Holidays

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

Live streaming.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tales of an Unchurched Mystery Guest: Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tales Of An “Unchurched” Mystery Guest

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

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

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

Is the church well-known in the area?

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

Could you find your way?

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

The first impression:

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

Finding a seat:

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

The music/worship:

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

In-service greeting:

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

The message:

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

The speaker:

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

What about kids?

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

What happened after the service?

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

Friendliness of the church:

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

Information about the church:

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

Outreach opportunities:

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

Church follow-up:

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

Overall experience:

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

Likelihood of return: unlikely

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

Likelihood of recommending the church: unlikely

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

The last impression:

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

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

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

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

1. Define Your Audience

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

2. Give ‘Em the “Inside Scoop”

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

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

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

4. Include Visual Content

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

5. Make Your Site Mobile Friendly

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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?
Click to Tweet


lightstock_172691_full_kate

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.
Click to Tweet


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!”

lightstock_124988_full_kate

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.

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.