(Photo: Ben Reed)
A pastor in charge of community building and small groups feels it's so important for churches to make a good impression on first-time church visitors from the moment they walk onto a church campus that he's come up with a list of 10 statements that just might do the opposite and turn churchgoers away.
Pastor Ben Reed of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Tennessee told The Christian Post that a church can run people off if its greeters and the rest of the congregation are not careful about the words they use.
"I think that we forget a lot of times that the worship experience starts in the parking lot, not when we pastors step on the stage," Reed said. "We can put so much effort and time into crafting just that perfect worship service and it doesn't matter if we miss out" by the church's guest services giving the wrong impressions, he explained.
"If we don't really think critically about how we are going to minister to the first-time guest then we are going to miss it," he said.
One of the items on his "10 Statements Church Visitors Never Want to Hear" list is "What's your address? I didn't catch it on the first 6 forms I had you fill out."
"The Gospel is the greatest message in the history of the world, but it doesn't have a chance if the moment somebody walks in the door and if somehow, someway we convince them to fill out a visitors form and then later in the service we ask them to fill out another one, and when they pick up their kids we ask them to fill out another one," Reed said. "They just might throw up their hands and say, 'I don't care what your gospel is, forget it.'"
He also cautioned against someone already inside the church making a quick judgment about a first-time visitor.
Reed gave the example of visitors who may be "feeling pretty good about this new church and when they come in somebody says, 'Oh, I know you. We went to high school together. What are you doing at this church?' Basically implying that 'I know what your sins are and you are not really welcome here.'"
The "10 Statements Church Visitors Never Want to Hear" according to Reed are:
1. Our pastor isn't normally this _____.
Insert whatever you want in this blank: loud, obnoxious, offensive, long-winded. If you have to explain part of your pastor's style because you know that outsiders won't like it, you've got a problem. Talk with your pastor about that.
2. We're full. Sorry.
Always have a backup plan. Always. If someone sees that your service is full once, they'll deal with it. But they probably won't come back if they don't see a plan you have in place.
3. What are YOU doing here?
Never say this. Never. Your shocked, open mouth reveals your judgmental spirit…at least in the eyes of visitors. When you say this, all they can think is, "God couldn't really love someone like you."
4. You can't serve now…you've got to be a member first.
Why would someone want to become a member if they've never had the chance to serve?
5. We don't believe in serving coffee on Sunday mornings.
If you say this, I can only assume you are leading a church in the pit of Hell.
6. What's your address? I didn't catch it on the first 6 forms I had you fill out.
Try to streamline the "first-time visitors check-in process." Nobody likes to feel like they're visiting HR on their first church visit.
7. You want to join a small group? You'll have to wait until next Fall.
If you ask people to wait more than a month to join community, they'll often look elsewhere.
8. Here we just care about the Truth. If you don't like it, you can leave.
I get it. You love the Bible. You love preaching the Truth. But don't love that more than you love people.
9. Here are the 38 things we do each week as a church.
Simplifying is the key, otherwise you'll give people decision paralysis.
10. Next time, could you make sure to wear _____.
Fill that in with "something nicer," "something more relaxed," or "something that's clean," and you've offended someone unnecessarily. Creating a "come as you are" culture should be our aim, not creating a "come as I am" culture.
Reed concluded his post by asking readers, "Got anything you'd add?"