MMI blog had this post yesterday that was insightful and helpful. It's hard to remember what it was like the first time you walked into a new church if you've been a long-time member.
What’s Really Important To Your Church’s First Time Visitors?
I was recently reading a series of articles by David Zimmerman on how first-time visitors view church. One line struck me as having a lot of truth to it. David writes, “First-time visitors care most about not embarrassing themselves.” As I think about that statement, I immediately realized that if I were looking for a church, this would be my first priority: not looking foolish.
It’s the reason I hate going to an auto mechanic. I know nothing about cars, engines, and maintenance. I feel totally out of my comfort zone when the mechanic shares that my differential is going out or my tie rods have a problem. I just want to tell them to fix it and get out of there fast.
I have the same feeling whenever I travel to a new airport, visit a new restaurant, or do anything out of my general routine. My general feeling is, ‘let’s get this over with’. I’m uncomfortable when my surroundings aren’t familiar.
If I’m not extremely peculiar (some would argue that), then this is the same way that many first-time visitors feel when they walk in your church’s door for the first time. They are probably feeling very self-conscience. Maybe they dressed up or dressed down more than others. Their children might embarrass them. David notes, that they may even worry about when to sit and when to stand in the service.
...Well, [the answer] could lie in genuinely making your visitors feel welcome and at-ease. Take away things that could make people feel uncomfortable or that could be embarrassing. One way is to greet them as you would a friend. Make sure they know where to go. Walk them to the classrooms where their children will attend. Introduce them to the teachers. I know of one church that tells their greeters never to point, but always to lead. Rather than saying, ‘down that hallway and to the right’, show a little interest and lead them there.