Visiting Churches

Tips for Improvement After Visiting 52 Churches

Discover How to Attract Visitors and Keep Them Coming Back

On our year-long journey of visiting churches, we witnessed more than a few oversights, errors, and blunders that could turn off visitors. Sadly, many occurred more than once.

Here are some tips for improvement to consider to not scare away guests.

The Church Facility

Realtors stress curb appeal. So should churches. Make the outside of your building inviting for visitors, and make sure the inside continues the positive experience.

  • Clearly mark the entrances. For big facilities, make the path to the sanctuary clear.
  • Unlock the doors. And if there’s a reason you want a particular entrance locked, make it apparent before people reach it.
  • The facility needs to be clean, open, and well-lit—unless you’re going for a subdued mood. At one church the pews were so dirty I didn’t want to sit, even though I wore jeans.
  • Address building problems and consider the décor. After a while, members overlook a building’s flaws, but those are the first things visitors notice.
  • Some buildings, especially older ones, have an odor. Eliminate them. And don’t use one scent to cover up another.

Online Presence

In today’s culture, an online presence is critical to attract visitors. Short of a personal invitation, today’s younger generation won’t visit a church that lacks an inviting online presence.

Here are some tips for improvement to your internet presence.

  • Keep websites and social media pages up to date. Though closed for two years, one church’s website was still up and looked current. Avoid “coming soon” website pages, especially on sections relevant to visitors.
  • Ensure a consistent message. We witnessed many glaring differences between churches’ websites and Facebook pages (and bulletins).
  • A visitor wants to know service times and location. Provide a street address, as many will use a GPS. Also provide both a map and a written description, as some will prefer one over the other.
  • Let visitors know how to dress and what to expect.
  • Have outsiders review websites. Two churches had sites that were off-putting and downright spooky. We thought one might be a cult. Seriously.
  • Posting personal prayer requests online, in an unsecured section, is foolish and completely disregards privacy. Think through privacy laws carefully.

The Church Service (Ideas for Leaders)

People attend a church for the service. Make it easy for visitors to participate.

  • If you don’t provide Bibles, display the words overhead, as the Bible visitors bring—if they even bother—will not likely match yours. Visitors may also use a Bible reading app, but they’ll need to know which version of the Bible you use.
  • Make sure visitors know you don’t expect them to participate in the offering. You don’t, right?
  • Clearly state communion expectations and traditions since practices vary greatly.
  • Don’t continually address “visitors” as a special category. It’s okay to welcome visitors and inform them they’re exempt from certain expectations, but don’t single them out or preach just to them—especially when it’s obvious there’s only one visitor.
  • To attract new people, be accessible and user-friendly.
  • Remove—or thoroughly explain—any practice or procedure that could confuse a visitor or keep them from engaging in the service and meeting God.
  • Appoint friendly and outgoing people to seek out and engage visitors.

Have a Visitor-friendly Focus (Ideas for Laity)

To remain viable for the long term, a church needs to look outside themselves. This includes having a visitor-friendly focus.

Here are some ideas:

  • Invite a visitor to sit with you.
  • Once you know a visitor’s name, introduce them to others.
  • Keep visitors informed. If you offer coffee and donuts, make sure they know where to find them.
  • Ask if a visitor has any questions or concerns.
  • Show, don’t tell. If a visitor needs to find a certain room or asks about the restroom, don’t point, gesture, or offer vague directions. Whenever possible, take them to their destination.
  • Just because the church has appointed greeters, that doesn’t relieve everyone else from also welcoming guests. Offer a smile and a friendly face to those you don’t recognize. You may be the only one to greet them.
  • Protect visitors from members who lack boundaries or don’t comprehend social norms.

Also check out the post about greeting well.

Implement these tips for improvement to make your church more attractive to visitors and keep them coming back.

[Check out the discussion questions for this post.]

My wife and I visited a different Christian Church every Sunday for a year. This is our story. Get your copy of 52 Churches today, available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.