Looking for a church home in their new community Bill and Jane turned into the parking lot of First Community church. Bill noticed immediately the worn shingles on the roof. Bill was no expert but he knew the church roof needed attention. Jane on the other hand thought to herself, “The hedges have not been recently trimmed, and those flower beds out front were once likely beautifully adorned with color.” As they neared the building Bill noticed the grass growing through all the cracks in the well-worn parking lot.
Not seeing any signs for which entrance to use, Bill assumed, “It must be over there, where most of the cars are parked.” Unfortunately, there were no parking spots in that area, so Bill drove around to a side lot with faded lines. Bill pulled into a spot beside two other cars assuming this must be the way the lines are supposed to run.
Jane unfastened the car seat and lifted Tracy, their youngest out and onto her left hip with purse and diaper bag on her right shoulder. Bill meanwhile lifted Jenny in his right arm and taking Tommy by the hand tucking his and Jane’s Bible under his arm and as a family they made the trek around the building and into the door they assumed to be the main entrance. Once inside, both Bill and Jane began looking for signage or any indication to where the nursery or the sanctuary were located. There was nothing to indicate either. After a couple minutes pondering, Bill turns to his right and says, “Come on we’ll find it or someone who can help us.”
Have Bill and Jane been to your church? We think our church is guest friendly, but is it? We believe so because we know where everything is. But newcomers do not. In too many of our churches we assume too much on behalf of people who have never been to our facility. We walk right past what I call concrete pigs, blemishes, broken tiles, bad outside appearances, without ever noticing them. They become obscure to church members, yet they are blaring sirens to newcomers.
Here are a few questions to critically ask as a church:
1, What is the first thing a first-time guest sees when turning into your church drive? (bad looking roof well-worn parking lot)
2, Is the curb appeal positive or lacking? (flower beds, shrubs)
3, Is there signage guiding guests to preferred parking areas for easy entry? (close parking for guests or families with young children, faded or no lines in the parking areas)
4, Once inside are there smiling, courteous, happy people looking to assist newcomers? (what about in the parking lot to help mothers of young children?)
5, Is there adequate signage to assist people in getting acclimated with the building, restrooms, preschool and children’s areas, worship center, fellowship hall, etc.?
6, Is someone assigned to guide newcomers to the various areas marking floor maps so parents can remember where to pick up their children after services?
7, What is the condition of the most used restrooms near the worship center?
I could probably write at least twenty more questions to ask as a church about being truly welcoming to guests. It only takes a newcomer three minutes to make up his/her mind about the true friendliness and consideration for new people of your church. What does the first three minutes on your property tell newcomers? What are you telling guests about your church the first three minutes they enter your facility? Will you take time this week and join others in your church to take an objective look around your church from the eyes of a newcomer?