In Their Shoes
I went to a church a while back, on a rare Sabbath I wasn’t preaching. I sat with my family, and as the church service progressed, the time for offering came. I felt the need to give and decided to give $300 to a special project they had. I looked around for a tithe envelope. None in my pew. Looked backwards and forward. None there either. I asked my son to go out to the lobby, to look for one. We struck out again. I asked the lady next to me, a member of the church, about the lack of tithe envelopes. She said the deacons take them away, because the children draw on them during service. Which made me think: How many other $300 donations has the church lost, because they were concerned about 10 tithe envelopes being destroyed on Sabbath? More on this later…
I visit many churches. Churches of all sizes. Churches of all languages. Churches in major cities and churches in the country. Churches of all styles. Here are three recommendations for creating a better experience for guests that attend your church. Pay attention to what guests experience in these areas:
1. What they hear.Do you keep the service positive? Is the Sabbath school director happy about the ones that are there, or is complaining about the ones that aren’t? Are you prone to speaking adventese or can guests clearly discern and understand “the words that are coming out of my mouth”? (sorry couldn’t help myself) When offering time comes, does it paint a picture of vision and progress or is it a list of complaints about bills, past dues and lack of commitment from members? People give, are attracted to, and inspired by a positive vision, not a litany of complaints.
2. What they see.This is a problem in many churches (I would say most, but I don’t want to sound negative). As I was saying, in most churches there is no clear signage. You know where bathrooms, children’s classrooms, the sanctuary and the fellowship hall are. Do they? No! Another thing they see is clutter. The longer you are in a church the less you see the broken window held with duct tape, the ceiling that has water spots, the year old bulletins in the classrooms, the boxes, hymnals out of place, broken things in the parking lot and rusty chairs. The message that sends is this: We don’t care about our church. Neither should you. Please don’t come here. Were good.
3. What they smell. 9.99 out of 10 bathrooms I use in churches smell bad, look bad, and would never be acceptable in any of the members’ homes. Churches with musty smells, that reek of unattractive odors, send the message: today’s service is to be endured, not enjoyed. Andy Stanley in his book Deep & Wide, says it best: “the physical environment does more than leave an impression; it sends a message.” In many churches the message is: “We aren’t expecting guests. What we are doing here is not all that important. We expect somebody to clean up after us. We don’t take pride in our church.” Stanley, Andy (2012-09-25). Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attend (Kindle Locations 1693-1695). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
What changes can you make? Who can be a set of fresh eyes you could invite to take a look at your church and point out some areas of growth?
And please, please have some tithe envelopes ready, available and visible. Aren’t they free?