Here are three main concerns for a first time guest in worship.
1) Facilities. A newcomer will see things about the facilities that long time church attenders will never notice. It begins with the impression from the road, the parking, and the signage to get into the right door. From there it moves to the entrance, the smell, the look, the decor. From there it moves to detail – the cleanliness, the up-to-dateness, the tidiness, the look of the nursery, meeting rooms and classes. Newcomers notice the leak stain in the ceiling, the chipping pain, the dingy walls, the dirty baseboard. They notice the bathroom. They notice missing lights and burned out bulbs. They also notice when things are nice, clean and up-to-date, especially the bathroom, the nursery and the lobby area.
2) Friendliness. A guest in worship will immediately get a first impression of the church based on the way people interact with them and each other. Are there smiles? Are they greeted? Are people helpful? Does it seem like people are so connected and engaged with each other that they don’t even notice someone new? Do people approach? The friendliness of a congregation is a huge part of the perception of the church way before the worship service even begins. If the congregation isn’t careful, they will mistake closed, personal connections with a few people as friendliness. Lots of chatter on Sunday morning doesn’t automatically make a church “friendly”. It takes a concerted move on the part of the long time church members to think of being involved in the mission to identify, welcome and connect with guests in worship. There’s time for talking to your old friends other times during the week (in fact if you are relying on Sunday morning worship as the only time your church family connects personally, you need to begin more classes, groups, meals, missions and fellowship opportunities). Another aspect to friendliness is the website? Is it helping or hurting the church perception to potential guests?
3. Feeling. To the guest in worship, this is critical. What kind of feelings did they experience while they were in your midst? Did they feel loved? Reached out to? Did they get a sense the church was on the move? Did they feel moved to engaged in music? In the message? Did they feel like they could see themselves making this their church home? Did they feel like there were other people like them in attendance? Following Christ is more than a feeling, but there’s no doubt that the first impression and feelings people have as they enter and leave are a driving force to long term connection. What are you planning in your worship service this week that will invoke inspiration? That will make a difference in how people leave the worship service.