ASSESS your situation
Self examination is a painful thing. No one wants to come face to face with their shortcomings. However, if our churches are going to be the very best they can be, it is crucial to practice it often. Some simple, practical ideas (I’m a simple and practical guy!) on how to do this in relation to visitors are:
- Be a visitor – At least once a year, I highly recommend that every pastor, church leader, and member go to a church that they have never been to for Sunday Morning Services and reacquaint themselves with what it is like to be a visitor. There is nothing that will help you be “visitor minded” more than putting yourself in their shoes.
- Have a “secret agent visitor” pay you a visit – Whether it be a professional church consultant or just someone you ask to do this as a favor, have someone from outside your church that no one would know or recognize, pay a visit to your church on a Sunday morning, then give a report of their experience as a visitor in your congregation. The results may really be an eye-opener!
- Review church policies and procedures – Analyze each and every aspect of how your church operates, from advertisement to social media to your Sunday School, worship services, and activities, from the perspective of how it affects the first time visitor.
ADDRESS your situation
We can read books and articles, go to conferences, discuss, debate and analyze the problem all day long. None of it really does any good until we put it into action and actually CHANGE OUR BEHAVIOR. Medicine does the patient no good unless it is administered! Once again, a few simple and practical ideas to make this happen:
- Teach it – A church will never see the importance of making visitors a priority until church leadership makes it a priority. Having a time where all the church membership comes together (at least the church leadership) and is trained and taught about the importance of being “visitor friendly.” This would include specific ideas and instructions on how to implement this goal and make it become a reality.
- Preach it – I preached a message one time when I was pastoring on “Why we do what we do.” At every point in the service, from announcements to offering to sermon to invitation, I would jump up and yell “STOP” and then take the time to discuss what we were doing and why we were doing it. Someone said “a rut is just a grave with the ends knocked out.” Use every means possible to wake your congregation up to the dangers of a “me centered” church!
- Practice it – The best leadership is leading by example. Make visitors a priority before your church services start, during the service, and after. Folks can’t follow a parked car.