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.

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.

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.