By Aaron Earls
Many pastors and church leaders have forgotten what it was like to visit a church for the first time and have no idea what to expect.
For you, the walk into the building is a regular part of your week. But for a guest, it can be intimidating and confusing.
They want to know about your church, but they don’t always know where to start. Make it easy for them by clearly answering these five questions.
1. What do you believe?
Communicate your core beliefs clearly, frequently, and obviously through every means possible.
When our family moved to a new city a few years ago, one of our first tasks was finding a new church home. I didn’t want to waste our time (or the time of any potential churches) by visiting congregations we’d never join due to theological differences.
That doesn’t mean you have to prominently display your denominational ties in your church’s name, but it should mean that you aren’t hiding your doctrinal distinctives on an impossible-to-find webpage.
Be clear on your website and in your worship services about your church’s theological positions.
2. Where is the bathroom?
Some questions are serious and long-term importance; other questions are serious and of immediate consequence.
First-time guests need to know where everything is located in your building, including (and especially) the bathroom.
Make sure you have highly visible signage throughout your facilities to point visitors to important places like the nursery, kids’ classrooms, student ministry area, parking lots, and, of course, the bathrooms.
3. How do I get connected?
If a guest is serious about committing to your church, they’ll quickly want to know how they can become connected.
Does your church do off-campus small groups, on-campus Sunday school, other groups during the week? Share with visitors how they can take the next step with your congregation.
4. What is expected of me?
As visitors think about connecting deeper with your church, they’ll want to know about the expectations your congregation has of its members.
Frustrations often occur when leaders attempt to enforce unwritten or unspoken rules on new members.
Longtime members may be aware of the expectation for every parent to serve in at least one Sunday in the children’s area, but those who are new to your church cannot be expected to know that without you telling them.
The moment a guest walks in the door might not be the time to tell them you expect them to join a committee or serve on the greeting team, but don’t attempt to hide the standards you have for those who want to become part of your church.
5. Will my family and I be safe?
Unfortunately, this question has become increasingly relevant. Churches must be prepared to demonstrate that they are concerned with the safety of those in attendance and will do what it takes to ensure it.
Give visitors confidence that you’re not only a church that cares for the abused, but that you’re also working to keep kids (and everyone else) protected from potential abuse.
By making the steps you are taking to ensure safety of attendees visible to everyone, not only are you reassuring worried parents and concerned guests, you’re discouraging potential predators from seeing your church as an easy target.
Guests who come to your church never come alone. They always bring questions with them.
Encourage them to return by answering those questions before they even ask them or at least have answers ready for those who do ask.
Give visitors all the information they need to make the right decision about becoming a part of your church body.
Aaron Earls is senior writer/editor of LifewayResearch.com.