You know how hard it is to get new people to come and join you for church. The problem is, after getting them through the doors, less than 3 out of 100 visitors will return for a second visit.
That’s depressing, but it made me highly curious. I wonder what it is that makes people come to church only once and never again? Is it something I said? Do we smell funny?
Well, being born without the shy gene, I decided to pursue an answer with as many “unchurched” people as I could get to talk to me by asking them, “What do you wish church people knew about unchurched people that might turn their first into the first of many?”
In an earlier post [LINK] I gave the top 5 responses from unchurched people to the question.
In this post I’d like to offer you 5 more that just barely missed the cut. The following responses are not in order but each one is included in this post because they were repeated a number of times.
1. THE QUALITY & STYLE OF MUSIC IS JUST AS IMPORTANT TO ME AS WHAT THE GUY WHO DOES THE TALKING HAS TO SAY
Guess what . . . music speaks.
I’m not trying to start a worship war and I know that worship styles are a sensitive subject for many, many churches.
Here’s the thing. I don’t get it! I’d be happy to have no music in a church service. However, I am the exception not the rule. Most people expect music, of some kind, in a church service.
Music is important. For the majority of people, the singing and the music that is played sets the tone for the day, it prepares the heart for the sermon or it acts as a powerful response to whatever was taught that day.
I think most people understand that. What most people don’t consider is how much the worship style communicates to the first-time visitor about who you are as a church.
The truth is, a group of people gathering together in a building to sing in unison isn’t “normal” it’s unique to the church. There is the rare exception to this (e.g. stadiums and the national anthem or Sweet Caroline, Karaoke bars that have a two drink minimum, East Side Highschool in Albuquerque, etc) but by-in-large people don’t just do this.
Now . . . I have my opinion about style (who doesn’t) but the real issue is quality. If the music that you do, as a church, is poor quality it reflects badly to the visitor. Whatever you do, do it really well.
Unchurched people are less concerned with your worship style than you may think, it’s typically the churched people who have an opinion.
I will add (although I probably shouldn’t) that unchurched people only know of one kind of worship music and that’s the stuff that plays on the radio. While there are still some radio stations that play hymns, chances are the only place they will have ever heard hymns before was at a funeral. Something to consider when you think about what your worship style communicates about your church to the first-time visitor.
2. WHEN I GO TO CHURCH I’M NOT LOOKING FOR SOMETHING COOL, I’M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING MEANINGFUL
There is a very small demographic of people that would decide to attend a church service because the church looked “cool.”
While young 20’s and 30’s are flocking to some of these types of churches, don’t be confused about who they are and why they are actually going. They don’t attend and stay at the church because it has a coffee shop in the entryway. They don’t give up their Sunday mornings just because the pastor wears a t-shirt and has 3 visible tattoos.
These things may help, but the real reason most people visit and begin regularly attending a church is relationships.
While there are certainly other factors involved, understand that visitors who are looking for a home church will forgive a multitude of cultural discomforts and unmet personal preferences if they are able to invest in and be invested in the lives of the people of the church.
If you don’t have space in your life for a new person, you probably are not going to grow your church.
3. IF NO ONE LOOKS LIKE ME, I’M OUT
As much as I want people to see me as unique, I want to feel like I belong.
If, right now, a 20 year old woman walked into a church that had nothing but 70 year old men in it, she probably would run for the hills. While this is an extreme example, the reality of generational affinity is a major factor for a first-time visitor.
There is little a church can do to change the generational makeup of it’s congregation. You can’t just decide one Sunday to all be 35.
Age is only one aspect of affinity. Dress, decor, and technology are all points of connection for people.
Think through who it is that you want to reach as a church, pay attention to the trends of your city, county or town. Do things with intention as a church family.
Be different in your actions, be different by your love, be different in Jesus. These are all internal differences . . . maybe be the same in some of the external ones.
4. I DIDN’T COME TO YOUR CHURCH BECAUSE MY LIFE IS A WRECK
Honestly, this one kind of shocked me. I never really thought about it, but I guess I naturally assume that people who visit my church on Sunday are looking for Jesus. I just assume that there is something that has happened in their lives that has opened their eyes to their need for a Savior. Apparently, that’s often not the case at all.
Most visitors didn’t find their way into your church because they were overwhelmingly crushed by their sin and a need for a Savior. In fact, most people are of the opinion that their lives are pretty good.
It may take months or years before an individual may come to terms with the underlying reason the Holy Spirit compelled them to start attending church. Our job isn’t to assume but to assimilate. We should want people to become a regular part of our conversations about God and His Word. We should desire that people would join us in learning about our needs and how they are perfectly met in our Savior.
5. I’M ONLY GOING TO GIVE THEM ONE SHOT
To quote a modern “poet” Marshall Bruce Mathers III, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance . . . this opportunity comes once in a lifetime.” (Couldn’t help it . . . don’t ask!)
First impressions matter and there are 100 things you can do to blow your one opportunity with a visitor.
I won’t go into details on any of these things, but if you are curious, I would recommend giving Jonathan Malm’s book Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors.
Needless to say, a church that isn’t concerned with a visitor’s experience at their church is a church that is likely headed for demise.
God gave us the gift of the church to help grow His Kingdom and fame. We must engage in the mission and be part of the Great Commission work of His church.