welcomeThe Johnsons have worked for years to encourage their unchurched neighbors, John and Sally, to try their church. They have not been churchgoers since they got married. However, with two young children and a baby, they’ve begun to think about it. Today is the day John and Sally will break a 12-year pattern in which they have not attended worship.

Rising early, John and Sally get the children ready and, as they leave the house, take the direction sheet the Johnsons have provided. The two older children begin squabbling in the backseat. Then the baby starts crying. It’s as if the enemy has begun the attack!

When John accidentally took the wrong turn, it put them behind—just a few minutes. They recaptured their route, according to the directions, but arrived at the church a little late. What did they find? The parking lot, at first glance, looked full. All the prime spots near the doors were taken. They did find a place in the last row. They made a dash toward the building as it began to sprinkle.

While they walked the fast pace, John and Sally wondered if they were dressed properly. Would they stick out in the crowd? John saw a man with a Bible. Were they supposed to have Bibles? As they entered the hallway, they began to look for signs. Which way is worship? The greeters had already left their posts after worship started. As they passed a restroom, one of the children needed to make a stop. John took the little boy in and couldn’t help but notice the old, dirty, and unappealing restroom. Meanwhile, Sally looked for the nursery. The Johnsons had mentioned there was a place for the little one—a great relief for Sally. But where is it?

Finally, with the little one in the nursery, they found the place of worship. The service was already underway. The place looked full. An usher greeted them, “There are some seats left. I’ll take you there.” John, Sally, and the kids felt paraded to the front row.

They tried to experience worship. What they really felt was trauma.

Focus on these issues:

  1. Your church only has one chance to make a good first impression.
  2. Concentrate on what happens to people in the first three minutes they’re on the property.
  3. Provide guest parking, parking attendants, and parking lot greeters.
  4. Teach your people to tell visitors how to dress, what to bring, what to expect.
  5. Put signs everywhere and ask greeters to serve well before the worship service and several minutes after it begins. Add plain-clothed crowd directors who look for guests and simply offer to help them—as their Sunday morning ministry.
  6. Provide restrooms that sparkle and a safe, kid-friendly nursery.
  7. Leave some seats at the back of the sanctuary near the aisle.
  8. Most of all, teach the people of your church not to INVITE people to church, but to BRING them.

Meeting Jesus Christ should not be a traumatic experience. It’s the love of God, not the wrath of the church that will bring them back.

How does your church welcome new people? We welcome your comments below.

Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by emailTwitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.

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