Seeking out information from the visitors will be one of your best resources. They will see beyond what we see because we become compliant and get so used to the way things are that we do not see the problems and issues that a fresh perspective will see. We become compliant and see things through a "rose colored glasses" perspective. That is, we see our church in the light of romantic nostalgia of what we did in the past and how good we were or are. Thus, we do not see the issues in a fresh way, un-clouded with nostalgia or preconceived ideas. When we see as the visitor sees, then we can respond accurately to them as honored guests. We will be able to see their needs and concerns, and meet them with a response and the Gospel. People may think we are nuts at first, because those who are not familiar with our Lord will not understand until the Holy Spirit interdicts. The Holy Spirit uses us Christians as His tools!
This is how you can find out if your church is visitor friendly. Have people visit your church who have not been there before. These can be people you know, or who are from other churches. Make sure that they are anonymous so that your members are unaware. The goal here is to see how they are welcomed, and to see specific issues that can be detrimental to reaching out in your community. Here is a list of questions that your "visitors" can keep in mind when analyzing your church:
1.What is it like to be a visitor at this church?
2.Specifically, what appealed to you?
3.What "turned you off?"
4.What made you comfortable and relaxed?
5.What made you uncomfortable and stressed?
6.What stood out to you, positive, negative?
7.Did you feel the presence of God?
8.Was anything going on that distracted you from worship?
9.Was there anything that you would change?
10. What are the "pros" and the "cons?"
11. (For a non-Christian), Was the teaching relevant to you and could you understand? (For a solid Christian), Was the teaching Biblical and true?
12. Does the bulletin have enough information so the first time visitor can follow the service without being embarrassed?
12. Is there some kind of visitor identification system?
13. Are the classrooms and other places to go clearly advertised and posted?
14. Is there a follow up program for visitors?
15. Is there a card to fill out in the pews/chairs with adequate space so the visitor can give you personal information and critique?
These questions will quantify the overall health of your church because, if the people are mature, then a sense of gratitude will overflow from the spiritual disciplines to those around them. In addition, when there is a church that is spiritually mature, new comers will usually see it. Sometimes churches have not thought through a process on how to greet people. Even though the church is healthy, this may not be obvious. These questions will unveil this problem and create opportunities to improve and re-tool the way things can better be implemented.
The next set of questions will allow you to unveil minor issues and develop genuine countermeasures for problems that frustrate people, both visitors and sometimes, members. This will provide future visitors with a church that has a "user friendly" atmosphere, thus they will feel welcomed and accepted.
16. Is adequate and convenient parking available?
17. Are adequate signs for the church and main entrance visible?
18. For the large church, do friendly, helpful guides from the parking lot to the bathroom exist?
19. Are adequate signs and directions to the various meeting sites, such as worship services, restroom, nursery, and classes clearly displayed?
20. Are friendly and knowledgeable greeters on hand?
21. Are friendly and well-trained ushers in place?
Church growth statistics say that visitors will decide in the first few minutes whether or not they will come back. So, the inference is that the visitor will be most impacted by how they are greeted, which will determine how they respond to the rest of the church. Even if you have the best teaching and worship in the world, people will not stay where they are not welcomed. First impressions are critical. If the church does not have a friendly atmosphere, then it will slowly die from unkindness. Kindness is a very important Fruit of the Spirit that must manifest itself from the parking lot to the restrooms, or you will be in a pew by yourself.
Life is full of "whys" and "how comes" that need explanation and truth available in God's Word, but that is elusive to most people. We are called to share and make His Word relevant. Thus, if they do not want to come to the door, or if the door will not open, then their quest for truth will come to a halt.
We want visitors to see our churches as a place to call home; a place they are welcomed, encouraged, and can take part in. We cannot have our guests treated like "Goldilocks" trying to sneak in and find their own way, only to find themselves in the wrong place, or in the way.
There is no question that the spiritual maturity of those in our churches will determine how we engage the visitor. It will also determine how we are responding to the call of our Lord. A caring atmosphere along with strong Biblical teaching will spawn growth and spiritual maturity, which is the main purpose of the church. A side effect will be the growth in numbers. Now, growth in numbers is important, but NOT the focus! Discipleship is the focus! Growth is the fruit and effect of it, but not the main ingredient. If you want to grow in numbers, then follow the call the Lord gave you by taking care of the people He has already given you, as revealed in Scripture!
The very core of a hospitable church is not how we do things or what we know and do, but it is all about what is in our hearts. In addition, if the care for people is not the blood flowing through our veins, and if discipleship is not our heartbeat, then we will not be building the Kingdom of God. Only the Kingdom of "self" will be laid. It is what is in our hearts that will determine the direction of hospitality and the tone of the church. It will set the pace and set the table of people being welcomed or being shunned.
We are called to obey the precepts of Scripture, the care and needs of the people the Lord gives us; care that makes people feel right at home. From signs and smiles that say we are glad you are here, an atmosphere that says Christ is here because we love Him, and friendly ushers and greeters who are showing the ins and outs, the seats, the restrooms, the classrooms, and the Spirit of our living Lord, comes evidence of that care. People, visitors, and members alike are welcomed, kept in prayer, cared for, not overwhelmed, but encouraged, and invited to a gathering. Then, the visitor can become a member that receives teaching, equipping, discipling, and training for His service. This process can then keep reciprocating to even more people. The call has been given; the response and responsibility is yours!