Every church has a desire to reach new people.  Every church wants to be friendly.  Most churches believe they are friendly.  Many churches are friendly, but a great deal of those are friendly with their own people.  Or those friendly churches provide a nice initial greeting, but there is nothing beyond the initial friendly reception.

In MissionInsite’s MinistryInsite Report, one of the trends I am noticing in mission fields of varying contexts across the United States is the desire and preference of seekers looking for warm and friendly encounters when it comes to a desired interaction with religious communities.  Did you hear that, church?  Warm and friendly encounters!  This preference is coming in at the very top of the preference list in report after report in working with churches across the country.  People in your neighborhoods are looking for a place where they are genuinely welcomed and accepted without judgement.  People are seeking places to build community.  The church should and can be the place for people to find warm and friendly encounters!

How would a first-time guest experience your church?  Would they experience a warm and friendly encounter?  What feels warm and friendly to those of us that have been around the church for a while who know the people, what to expect, where to go, etc. is much different than those who are experiencing the church for the first time. 

Here are just a few tips to get you started as you consider first-time guests experiences:

  1. How easily accessible is the church?  For onsite experiences, consider ease in finding worship times, exterior signage, guest parking, exterior hospitality, interior hospitality, pre-service atmosphere, guest-friendliness in worship (i.e., greetings, announcements), relevance and context of the message and music, post-worship hospitality, next steps and connection, and follow up post worship.
  2. For online experiences, how seeker friendly is your website?  Other social media?  Is it up to date?  How easy is it to find and access a worship experience?  Is the worship experience experiential and relational?  Is the worship experience designed for an online experience or video of the onsite experience?  Does the online attender have the same opportunities to engage such as prayer requests, greetings, interaction with others, opportunity to provide contact information, being invited to service opportunities, next steps for discipleship, questions answered, opportunity to give, connections and relationships with others, and feeling seen and loved by others?

As we enter into November, the Advent season is close behind.  And Advent is the season in which churches have the opportunity to receive more guests than any other time of the year other than possibly Easter.  Are you ready to provide the best possible guest experience?  Prepare now to provide warm and friendly encounters for your Advent guest experiences!