Just how does a visitor view his or her time with us? Is it easy for them to find classrooms and seats in the auditorium? How are they greeted? What type of information is available to them to answer questions they may have about our church? What are their impressions of our worship?
These are all essential questions to ask and answer if a church is to become truly visitor friendly. Ignore them and a church will never (regardless of a friendly spirit) maximize the outreach opportunities visitors present.
A growing church is one that purposefully and prayerfully plans to grow, commits the needed resources to grow, equips members for the planting and watering process and then enjoys the God-given increase. A growing church is a visitor friendly church. A growing church has a visitor friendly worship
WHAT THIS DOES NOT MEAN
A visitor friendly worship does not mean a compromise of any biblically defined worship practices. Yes, there is a consumer driven mentality present in our religious culture today. We need to understand that and respond to it, but not to the point of losing our identity, destroying our traditions and undermining our biblical convictions. Being a visitor friendly church does not mean “throwing the baby out with the bath water”.
WHAT IT DOES MEAN
Simply stated it means examining every aspect of our worship time from the eyes of a visitor. Is it easy for visitors to find seating? Do we have any designated seating for visitors? Do visitors understand what we are doing when we commune? Do they know what might be expected of them when the collection plates are passed around? Do they know exactly what to do with their children? Are they confused by our announcements? Are they warmly greeted after services are over? Do they receive an invitation for lunch? These are extremely important questions for us to consider. The goal of a visitor friendly church is to make their worship service not only uplifting and inspiriing, but also understandable to visitors. Let’s examine these one at a time:
- Seating. Finding a seat in a busy, crowded auditorium can be challenging and stressful for visitors- especially first-time visitors who may not know their way around and may not know anyone in the church. Many visitor friendly churches provide reserved seating for visitors and ushers to escort them to that seating. What better way to make a visitor feel at home and feel wanted than to give them this kind of personal attention?
- Welcome/Announcements. Often during this part of a service many things are discussed (some in great detail) that have absolutely no meaning to visitors. Obviously there are occasions when church business must be shared, but visitor friendly churches try to limit getting lost in too many details. There are other avenues for communication of family news. Rather, visitor friendly churches focus on the greeting- welcoming and providing information key to help the visitors feel comfortable. Compare it to having guests in your home. You know your way around. They do not. So you go out of your way to be hospitable. So do visitor friendly churches.
- Singing. Worship leaders should always be thinking in terms of a visitor friendly worship in planning song selection. New and unfamiliar songs should not be often sung during the assembly with the largest number of visitors. Like it or not, visitors will form an impression of us from their worship experience with us- from the moment they are greeted- to the actual worship- and until they drive away. What better way to make a good impression (not to mention encourage each other) by singing familiar songs with all our heart.
- Communion. Many visitors will not have a clear understanding of communion. They may not know what the elements mean and why we practice it. It is so very important to provide a simple and concise explanation of this time together. This is a beautiful and celebrated part of our worship so we should want our visitors to understand it. The focus at this time is on Christ. He is who we want our visitors to remember.
- Offering. Again a simple explanation is important for visitors. It is just helpful to direct them as we go through our worship. Again, information in written form should be provided to supplement this.
- Sermon. Church growth studies consistently indicate that positive pulpit presence is vital for a growing church. Visitors respond to timely, biblical and practical messages. Preachers must be visitor aware and never assume a visitor knows a Bible story or where a passage is.
- After Worship. Back to greeting here. Greeting not only happens before church but afterward as well. Are we making sure to catch visitors on their way out? Do we make sure they are leaving with pertinent information about us? (church bulletin, brochures) Are we inviting visitors to lunch? This all takes extra effort but visitor friendly churches make this effort.
Other elements such as the total time of a service are important to consider from a visitor’s perspective. Church growth studies indicate that visitors are not necessarily clock conscience as long as the worship relates to them and moves at an energetic pace.
There are many aspects of becoming a thoroughly visitor church. Having a friendly spirit is definitely the foundation, but the work is in the details. It will not happen by accident. A visitor friendly church is one that purposefully prays and plans for it to happen