October 1, 2013

Church Growth Essentials: 10 Common First-Impressions Mistakes

first time guest mistakes

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One of the components of the Ministry Health Assessment that we offer at the Unstuck Group is our secret shopper experience. This is our chance to visit your church and experience the entire weekend as a first-time guest. From guest services and children’s ministry to music and message, we try to take an honest look through the lenses of a first timer who knows very little about God and church. Here are ten common first impressions mistakes that churches make:

  1. Not enough parking lot volunteers to show me where to park and where to go. I’ve actually gotten “stuck” in a parking lot with no way out.
  2. Inadequate exterior signage that identifies buildings and points me in the right direction. One church had a sign that pointed me to the right to enter the sanctuary and to the left to enter the worship center – you decide!
  3. Lack of guest service diversity that represent the demographic of the community or who you are trying to reach. I love my parents, but I don’t want to go to their church. I want to go to church with people at a similar stage of life.
  4. Confusing indoor signage that uses ministry names that I don’t understand or omits the things I’m looking to find. “Discovery Land” doesn’t mean preschool, nursery or children’s area for first-fifth graders to an outsider.
  5. Dated decor and unkempt facilities that communicate your church is disorganized, messy in your leadership and behind the times. Unprofessional signs, paper taped to the wall, worn out carpet and scuffed walls don’t make a great impression. Instead, they communicate the idea that your church may be at death’s door.
  6. No Hosts/Ushers in the Worship Center to greet and help people find a seat. Time and time again I see hosts talking to their friends instead of helping people find a seat, especially after the service begins.
  7. Musicians disengaged because they are too focused on the music and not the worship. Moving band members from players to leaders is not easy, but a great place to start is getting rid of music stands.
  8. No clearly defined theme and next steps from the total worship experience. Often the music, message, video, offering and announcements all feel like separate comments with multiple agendas. Avoid this common mistake by making sure that your team is unified and that your vision and strategy are well understood.
  9. Sermons void of personal illustrations that connect the content to the real world and endure me to the authenticity of the pastor. As a first-timer I want to know that I can identify with the speaker and feel like I know him/her better after hearing them speak.
  10. No clearly defined communications strategy that brings a consistent message and brand identity through the website, signage, print pieces, series design, and announcement slides. If your information desk has a print piece for every ministry, the worship guide announces every single ministry event, and you announce more than one or two items, you have no strategy.

We would be glad to talk to you about doing a Ministry Health Assessment at your local church.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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