When Someone Comes to See

Pastor Ian encourages us to invite our friends to church and to warmly welcome newcomers, so that we will be the kind of church where seekers feel safe to explore faith. Read on to discover the surprising number one reason why many people do not return to a church they have visited.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see." (John 1:45-46)

From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, his friends invited their friends to 'come and see'. Sometimes they came because they themselves were seeking. Most often they came because they were invited by someone they knew.

In the past two weeks the Lord has blessed us with an unusual number of visitors, and I want to express my gratitude to those of you (there have been many) who have invited, and others who have gone out of your way to welcome and visit with newcomers! For the second week in a row, we had a visitor this past Sunday who had never before stepped into a church building. Why did he come? Just because a friend said to him, “Come with me and see!” What a blessing it was to observe how warmly these two young men were welcomed by God’s people!

Thom Rainer is president of Lifeway Christian Publishing House and also runs his own online research initiative. Recently he polled his Twitter followers to discover reasons why visitors do not return to a church they have visited. Assuming the majority of responders came from a culture that famously celebrates personal attention, I found the top five responses somewhat surprising:

5. Bad Church Website

People no longer drive around looking for a good church to attend. The vast majority of visitors first visit a church website where they are free to explore the church in anonymity. If the website is not current, or if people can’t intuitively find the church’s vision, beliefs and ministry opportunities, they quickly go to the next website without even stepping into the church building.

4. No Place to Get Information

Once people do come to visit, they can’t find an obvious welcome booth at which they might get more information on the church. This reduces the possibility of a second visit, by half.

3. Unsafe and/or Unsanitary Children’s Area

According to Rainer, this is the category that generated the most emotional responses. The church that doesn’t give high priority to children’s ministry should not expect families to attend. At least, not more than once. 

2. Unfriendly Church Members

Though this can be a common perception among visitors, what was surprising in this survey was the number of respondents who noted that while church members appeared to be friendly, they sensed that they were faking it. 

And the surprising number one reason visitors don’t come back:

1. Having to Stand Up and Greet One Another during the Worship Service

When we are comfortable with the context and the culture of church—and especially when the room is full of people we know and love—we tend to really enjoy greeting one another.  But when people are unfamiliar and uncommitted to a second visit, they tend to feel very awkward as many church members greet each other first or conversely, feel overwhelmed by the number of people who approach them.

Now that God has brought us home to Mattar Road, I pray that we will continue to explore ways that we can be the kind of church in which Seekers feel they can safely explore Faith. I pray that each of us will continue to be good stewards of the opportunities God gives us to connect and welcome newcomers. And I pray that God will prompt us to express His affection for those we haven’t seen in some time… and that every one of us will be prompted to make one phone call or send one text to remind someone who needs to remember that they have been missed! 

THIS WEEK’S REMINDER

If you are taking Grab, Uber or taxi to the church this week, please ask the driver to drop you off inside the parking area so as to avoid blocking traffic on Mattar Road. Thank you for your consideration of our neighbours!