, Nov. 2018.
,,, Recently, on Episode 132 of my Leadership Podcast, I had a far-ranging conversation on a guest’s first ten minutes at a church with Greg Atkinson, author of Secrets of a Secret Church Shopper. You can listen in the player below, or better-yet, subscribe to my pocdast for free on
What’s surprising to me about the factors Greg outlines is that they’re actually simple hospitality, people and facility-related things.
Conclusion? Often the barrier to Christ isn’t spiritual—it’s us.
1. HAVE A BAD ONLINE PRESENCE
… When was the last time you thought about your website from the perspective of a first time guest? Same for your social media accounts or pages.
Most people will check out a church online long before they check out a church in real life. It doesn’t matter whether you live-stream your services or not, a simple website with basic information for a first-time guest is helpful. (Here’s an example from our site at Connexus Church.)
2. MAKE PARKING FRUSTRATING
,,, Want a clear, short expression of a great guest services vision? Check out Gwinnett Church’s Guest Services video. The team at Gwinnett Church even takes pre-schoolers into the building on wagon rides. 4 year olds love it. 🙂 I’ll bet parents do too.
3. UNDER-GREET GUESTS
Many churches say they’re friendly. But what they mean is they’re friendly to each other.
… First-time guests need an appropriate welcome, clear directions to what’s next and the sense that there are people there who knew they were coming and are able to help them.
4. OVER-GREET GUESTS
… One rule that’s helped us at our church is simply this: greet people the way they want to be greeted.
Recruit emotionally intelligent guest services people who can sense if someone is an introvert and merely wants a ‘welcome’ or if a guest is an extrovert looking for a warm embrace and a conversation.
5. MAKE KIDS CHECK-IN COMPLICATED
… Two quick hacks can help this. Spend a bit of money on good technology. Get some updated tablets or computers that actually work (kids ministry usually suffer from hand-me-down syndrome) and give them meaningful wifi bandwidth so they run quickly.
Then, overstaff your check-in area. Have check-in people meet parents while they’re waiting in line and take their information so when they get to the front of the line they just need to get tags for their kids and go.
6. KEEP YOUR FACILITY TIRED AND DIRTY
The problem with your church is the same problem you have with your house: you become blind to the imperfections and problems.
7. CONFUSE THEM
… You may have clever theming for your kids environments or student environments, but make sure your signage is still clear for first-time guests. So while we call our pre-school Waumba Land, the sign in the main foyer says “Ages birth – five.” It’s just simpler that way.
Similarly, with the main auditorium or sanctuary, restrooms and other areas guests need to access. Just be clear.
… The interview with Greg Atkinson gives many more insights. I hope you check it out!