SUNDAY CHURCH HACKS & On your onsite and online “communication card” start by asking for prayer requests (rather than asking the person for contact information). Contact info can follow, but show the person you are putting their needs first, rather than a need for information.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Hurting people who are seeking you out, may not yet be ready to share identifiable data. On your “connection card” (virtual or hard copy) do not require …

  • phone numbers
  • email addresses
  • physical addresses
  • even names

You can ask for this information, but do not make it required (usually identified by an asterisk “*” .

Click on the picture below to enlarge an example from a client. This example includes changes to make a communication card more focused on the needs of others.

#GuestServices101 #ChurchGuests101

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks: Make sure links on your #streaming page open in another tab and do not stop the streaming. See this example …

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Watching a client’s streaming today, I noticed three nicely placed buttons that say …

Clicking on any of the three boxes above results in ending the streaming playback and exiting to another webpage. This would be analogous for someone in a face-to-face service taking a “connection card” and starting to fill it out; only to have the entire worship service stop, the preacher stop preaching and everything put on hold until the attendee has finished filling out the connection card.

The solution is to have:

  • A “feedback” button where people watching the streaming service can give you input.
  • Ask your staff and leaders to semi-regularly watch the service online to stop such missteps.

For more ideas about communicating in the new reality of the eReformation, see the book:

GUESTS & How to Lose a First Time Guest in 10 Minutes or Less. #CareyNieuwhof

 , 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.


… 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.)


,,, 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.


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.


… 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.


… 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.


The problem with your church is the same problem you have with your house: you become blind to the imperfections and problems.


… 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!

Read more at …


EVALUATION & What to look for when visiting a church @CharlesArn

Commentary by Prof. B: Our “Newcomer Integration Course” is designed by Dr. Charles Arn and includes the following guidelines for analyzing a church’s Sunday celebrations.  Used by permission, these guidelines can help you evaluate your Sunday experience.  It is best used on a church other than the one in which you serve.  If you desire to evaluate your own service, then ask a colleague to undertake this exercise for you (and perhaps offer to return the favor for their congregation).

“Visit a Church” by Charles Arn, Ed.D, n.d.

One of the best ways to understand how a person feels when visiting a church for the first time…is to be one! This assignment involves visiting a church in your area that you have never previously attended, and then writing a report on your experiences. As a result of this assignment, you will hopefully be more sensitized to the experiences that visitors have when they attend your church.

When should your visit occur? Plan to visit a church in your community on the first, second, or third Sunday of this course.

What kind of church should you visit? Try to visit a church that is approximately the same size as yours…but a different denomination and liturgical style. DO NOT visit a church of your own denomination.

What are the instructions for your visit? You may attend with a friend, spouse, or family member. In fact, if you bring someone with you, you can debrief and compare notes, which will give you a more comprehensive evaluation of the overall experience. You do not need to attend the educational hour, unless you desire to do so.

Arrive at least ten minutes before the service begins. Do not tell anyone that you are there because of an assignment for a seminary class. Simply indicate that you wanted to visit a church that morning (or some similar response that isn’t exactly a lie, but also doesn’t “blow your cover”…). Play the role of a visitor. If you have children, bring them along as a further way to evaluate the “church visit” experience. If the church has a “coffee hour,” attend that, as well.

What are the contents of the paper? While your paper should be personalized to reflect your own experience and writing style, make an effort to address the seven topics below. A few “starter” questions are included under each topic. (You don’t need to answer every question.)

  1. INTRODUCTION. At the beginning of your paper, include the following:
  • Name of the church you visited
  • Denomination
  • City and state
  • Approximate number of people in the service the day of your visit
  • Your own church’s name, denomination, and average worship attendance

After this, your paper/report should include the following categories:

  1. BEFORE Your VISIT. Check out the church the week before your visit in the same manner that a visitor might do so. Include drive-by impressions of the church building and facilities. Does the church have any yellow pages or newspaper advertising? If so, what are your impressions? Does the church have a website? What impressions do you have of the church based on its website?

Call the church office during the week before your visit and ask for more information about the service; adult and children’s classes, service time, style, dress, and other information of interest to a visitor. What impressions of the church did you get from the phone call?

  1. Before The service. What were your impressions driving into the parking lot or walking onto campus? Was the parking adequate? Was there parking for visitors? Handicapped? What did the outer appearance say to you about the church? Did you have any formal or informal contact with anyone before entering the building? Were there greeters before you entered the building? Were your initial impressions of the church confirmed or contradicted by your subsequent experience?

Once you were inside, what happened? Did anyone speak to you? Was there any indication that the church was expecting visitors/guests? Was there a Guest Center? If you had (or would have had) children, would you know where to take them? Would you feel comfortable leaving your children? Does the church appear to have considered children’s safety? What were your impressions of the Nursery (facilities and staff)? Restrooms? Signage? Classrooms? What priority does the church seem to place on their children’s ministry, and why do you think so?

When you entered the sanctuary, what first impressions did you have, and why? What about the seats? Lighting? Sound? Visibility?

  1. DURING The service. What were your impressions of the service, and why? Did the church seem to be expecting visitors in the service? Did you feel comfortable or uncomfortable as a visitor? Why?

How would you evaluate the following elements of the service:

    • Opening                                               • Bulletin/program
    • Visitor welcome                                  • Announcements
    • Music                                                   • Flow
    • Theme                                                 • In-house language
    • Bulletin/program                                  • Sermon
    • Announcements                                  • Closing
  1. After the service. Did anyone speak to you in the sanctuary/worship center after the service? In the lobby? Did what happened after the service affect or change your opinion of the church? Was there a time of fellowship or refreshments after the service?       Were you personally invited to have refreshments? Did you go? Did anyone ask or invite you to return the following week? If you were an actual church shopper, would you be inclined to return for a second visit? Why or why not?
  2. After the visit. Were you contacted in any way the week after your visit? By whom? When?   If you received a follow-up contact and you would have been an actual church shopper, did the contact affect your inclination to return?
  3. CONCLUSION. Summarize your visit and experience. Identify any particular experiences which impressed you (positively or negatively) and from which your church might learn. List any experiences or ideas that might be helpful to include in your own church’s welcome. Note any suggested changes in this assignment that might make the experience more beneficial for future classes/students.


(adapted from Dr. Arn’s course on “Newcomer Integration” which can be taken online for 3 credits at

NEWNESS & Can Newcomers Alone Renew a Church?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 2012.

Newcomer Newness & Transfer Growth

… congregations hope that improving their hospitality and assimilation of newcomers will create a new church. And, many helpful books can assist a church in better connecting newcomers to a congregation.[i]

But, while connecting newcomers with a community of faith is an important task, it will not create the all-encompassing sense of newness that is needed to revive a common church. Newcomers certainly bring a sense of expectation, innovation and camaraderie. But the fact is that in many churches the newcomers are refugees from other churches, visiting your church in hopes of something they are not getting at their previous congregation. In fact, there is a name for church growth that results from Christians church-shopping: transfer growth.[ii]

While transfer growth is important, for it helps ensure that Christians are getting plugged into a congregation, it does not create the kind of newness that an uncommon church needs. Donald McGavran said, “By transfer growth is meant the increase of certain congregations at the expense of others… But transfer growth will never extend the church, for unavoidably many are lost along the way.”[iii]

For true newness to spread through a congregation, the supernatural newness that God intended is needed. This a sense of newness arises comes from people in spiritual need being spiritually and physically transformed. Such newness pervades a congregation with a hope and a passion that no other newness can match.

[i] Charles Arn, Heartbeat: How to Turn Passion Into Ministry in Your Church (Longwood, FL: Xulon Publishing, 2010); Gary McIntosh, Beyond the First visit: The Complete Guide to Connecting Guests to Your Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), Nelson Sercy and Jennifer Henson, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully –Engaged Members of Your Church (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008).

[ii] See Donald McGavran’s explanation of why transfer growth is misleading for it does not reconnecting people back to God, but only to a new Christian fellowship in Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 72.

[iii] Donald A. McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1970), p. 72.

Excerpted from ©BobWhitesel, Cure for the Common Church: God’s Plan to Restore Church Health (Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2012), pp. 123-124.

NEWCOMERS & 17 Ideas How to Reach Them More Effectively

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D. and the 2017 Missional Coaches Cohort, 2/1/17.

  • Create a clear pipeline of discipleship from first visit to core group.
    • Make sure you have a volunteer “First Impressions” or “Guest Services” team
      that is easily identified and easily accessible
    • Highlight/announce a connection card to be filled out by guest and taken to guest
      services/dropped in offering basket. Consider giving a nice gift (shirt, mug, coffee
      cup, Chick-Fil-a coupon, etc.) out at Guest Central.
    • The best way to be able to follow up with new guest is to get their information!
    • Create a strategic timeline to follow up with new guests, including those
      who dropped off in children’s ministry.
    • Deploy a volunteer team to write hand written note cards and mail out to new
      guest each week. (provide the cards/envelopes, stamps).
    • Email at about week 4 to follow up with new guest inviting them to “Next Steps” in
      order to get connected- especially a specific class or outreach event.
    • Fusion (Nelson Searcy)- This book lays out a very clear assimilation process that
      you can contextualize for your church with sample communication pieces
  • Institute Small Group Events.
    • One per semester or twice annually to start new groups or get connected to
      existing groups. (September and February are great start times for these events)
    • Train potential small group leaders/hosts at a time convenient for them, and
      equip them with a guide and contact information if they need help.
    • Create a “signup” event- whether during/after services or on another night for
      congregants to view potential groups, meet the leaders/hosts, and sign up for
      one in their area or that fits their schedule.
    • A great model of this is Northpoint Church’s “GroupLink” event.
  • Meet the Pastor Dinner
    • Once per month, host a dinner and invite other pastors/staff there to highlight
      ministries, connection points, and inviting to a Membership/ownership class.
    • Divide people into small groups and have 3-5 questions at the tables for icebreakers
      (Provide name tags, pens, etc).
    • Share vision, mission, “Next Steps”, etc with guests. Allow for Q/A time.
  • 7 Touches Research
    • Research shows that new guests need to be contacted 7x to help them to better
    • Some options include: Parking Lot/Sidewalk greeters, Guest Services for adults
      and at Kids check-in, Auditorium Greeters/ushers, Connect Card/Guest Services
      Gift, Letter/Call from pastor on Monday, Email from Assimilation/Guest Services
    • Team with next steps opportunities coming up, Personal handwritten note card
      mailed out a week later, One month follow up.


C3 Intl. Inc., Church Change Consulting Inc. © Bob Whitesel DMin PhD & #PowellChurch

CHOOSING A CHURCH & Americans look for good sermons, warm welcome

Choosing a New Church or House of Worship, by Pew Research, 8/26/16.

About half of U.S. adults have looked for a new religious congregation at some point in their lives, most commonly because they have moved. And when they search for a new house of worship, a new Pew Research Center study shows, Americans look first and foremost for a place where they like the preaching and the tone set by the congregation’s leaders.

Fully 83% of Americans who have looked for a new place of worship say the quality of preaching played an important role in their choice of congregation. Nearly as many say it was important to feel welcomed by clergy and lay leaders, and about three-quarters say the style of worship services influenced their decision about which congregation to join. Location also factored prominently in many people’s choice of congregation, with seven-in-ten saying it was an important factor. Smaller numbers cite the quality of children’s programs, having friends or family in the congregation or the availability of volunteering opportunities as key to their decision.

Perhaps as a result of the value they place on good sermons, church leadership and the style of worship services, many people – even in this age of technology – find there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when seeking information about a new religious home. Fully 85% of those who have looked for a new house of worship say they attended worship services at a church they were considering, and seven-in-ten say they spoke with members of the congregation or to friends or colleagues about their decision. Looking for information online may be growing more common, especially among young people and those who have looked for a congregation recently. But online information still appears to be far less important to potential congregants than experiencing the atmosphere of the congregation firsthand.

The single most common reason people give for having looked for a new congregation is that they moved: Roughly one-third of adults say they have searched for a new place of worship because they relocated. By comparison, fewer people say they sought a new congregation because of a disagreement with clergy or other members at their previous house of worship (11%) or because they got married or divorced (11%). About one-in-five adults (19%) volunteered that they have looked for a new congregation for some other reason, including other problems with a previous church, changes in their own beliefs or for social or practical reasons.

These are some of the key findings from the fourth in a series of reports based on Pew Research Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Study. The study and this report were made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received support for the project from Lilly Endowment Inc. The first report on the 2014 Landscape Study, based on a telephone survey of more than 35,000 adults, examined the changing religious composition of the U.S. public and documented the fluidity of religion in the U.S., where roughly one-third of adults now have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. The second report described the religious beliefs, practices and experiences of Americans, as well the social and political views of different religious groups. A third report drew on both the national telephone survey and a supplemental survey of participants in Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel to describe how Americans live out their religion in their everyday lives.

Read more at …

ASSIMILATION & What Young People Are Saying About Its Negative Connotation

by Bob Whitesel, 5/21/15.

In a recent post I discussed how the word “assimilation” can mean something positive to older generations but also something negative to younger generations. This, it is often confusing when churches use it to denote their newcomer ministries.

To younger generation assimilation carries a negative connotation of giving up your personal cultural tastes and preferences. But to older generations it is a term which connotes positive characteristics of “blending in” with a dominant culture.

Subsequently, because assimilation can be misconstrued by people of different ages it is best not to use to describe our newcomer ministry.

In hopes of discovering an alternative term, I asked my students for suggestions. Here are two interesting postings from students about the term assimilation.

Student A: “Being 26 years old, I am kind of between generations. Plus I do youth ministry, so a lot of times I still get to feel like I’m a kid. When I hear assimilation, I feel that same uneasiness. From a church standpoint, when I think of assimilated drones, I think of legalism. I think of those in the church who have become cronies of the “rules and regulations” of the church, but have completely lost touch with the relationships. Much like the Pharisees, and much like the Borg, they all work with one mindset, and it just happens to be incorrect. I hate Star Trek, but I remember the episode where they tried to turn Patrick Steward into a Borg, and his struggle to escape. Having grown up in this culture, I am totally cool with being connected and in relationship, but pleeeaaasssee dont’ assimilate me!”

And then Student B said (Church name is a pseudonym) :

“Thank you, thank you!  I have been saying the same thing since the mid-90s.  In fact, I first heard the term ‘assimilation’ in this context while I was helping plant a church … while I was in my undergraduate program.  The executive pastor, Chuck, spent a great deal of time developing a program for assimilation, and it always had an ominous sound to me because of my fondness for Star Trek.

In fact, I took a downloaded portrait of a borg, cropped Chuck’s face onto the borg’s body (complete with facial hardware!) and put the following caption underneath it:  ‘We are Greenhill Church.  Resistance is futile.  You will be assimilated.’ Of course, I never showed that to anyone except another intern…’ 🙂 ”

Now, what comes to mind when you hear the term assimilation? And have you ever thought about how it is perceived by others? Now that you know about these dual and opposite meanings, what will you do?

ASSIMILATION & Maybe Christians Should Use an Alternative Term?

by Bob Whitesel, 5/21/15.

I believe it is critically and spiritually important to connect newcomers with our congregations. When discussing this topic with students the word “assimilation” sometimes comes up. This is, in fact, a word I have used for years to refer to the process of helping newcomers fit into our life of a fellowship and to embark upon their discipleship journey.

However a recent student noted that to young people today “assimilation” has a negative connotation. Here is her quote: “I’m a Star Trek fan and all I can think of when I hear that is the Borg insisting that every other life form they meet be forcefully altered into another drone for their collective, not even able to think on their own anymore but forced to do whatever the Borg wanted.”

That is almost exactly what a interviewee in a Phoenix focus group of young Gen-Xers said to me. Thus, I have been utilizing the word “connection” or “connecting.” It has a techie feel to it, and may be the Millennial generation equivalent of the Boomer “networking.”

The student who was the Star Trek fan even attached a picture of the Borg with her posting (I guess to scare Boomers). I downloaded the picture and tried to post it, but it assimilated, I mean connected, to my PC … but my Macintosh is doing fine :-)>

Here is what the student was talking about 😉
Click on this link:

OUTREACH & When Easter and Christmas near, more Americans search online for “church”

by Noble Kuriakoae, Pew Research Center, 4/18/14

“Priests and ministers have long noted a sharp increase in church attendance around the two most significant Christian holidays, Christmas and Easter. Some have given those who attend services only at those times of year a name — “Chreasters” — and churches have launched campaigns to get them to attend more regularly.

Google searches for "church" spike during Easter and Christmas seasons“More Americans search for “church” around Easter than at any other time, with the Christmas season usually ranking second, according to Google Trends data between 2004 and 2013. Google’s Trends tool measures the popularity of a search term relative to all searches in the United States. Data are reported on a scale from 0 to 100.”

Read more at…


Seven Ways to Help New Members Stick
by Thom Rainer

“Very few church leaders need to be convinced that assimilation is important. And very few church leaders need to be convinced that some upfront mechanism, like a new members’ class, is important. The question I am asked frequently is: ‘What are the best practices for this upfront orientation or new members’ class?'”

I have the advantage of research, input, anecdotal information, and ongoing conversations with church leaders. From these sources, I have derived seven ways to help new members stick. Obviously, my list is not exhaustive, but I do think it represents some of the best practices I see in churches today…”

For more read…