I recently read a list of questions first time guests at our churches are probably asking about their experience when deciding to continue at our church.
As our family has moved a few times, and we have had to search for a new church I didn’t find the list to be too accurate to my own questions.
Yes, I was certainly evaluating the condition of the building, and visible signage that helps direct visitors around the campus is something that matters. Do I feel safe leaving my children is a big deal. But, I don’t think I’ve ever expected coffee stations and questioned the quality of the coffee as part of a deciding factor of my attending there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy camper around the coffee station… but it’s not a make or break for me. I can bring my own, or even skip it until I get home.
I didn’t get hung up by whether or not the sanctuary was outdated, or if the hand outs were printed on quality paper. The type of music, and volume, has not mattered. I’ve sat in services that were 100% hymns and services that equaled a rock concert. The light levels and temperature never crossed my mind. Technical difficulties happen. Maybe because I have some introverted tendencies myself, I don’t worry if people greet me right away or seem overly friendly and welcoming. I don’t mind taking time to get to know one another and have those friendly greetings.
What surprised me is what is NOT on the list. Questions I ask, or things I look for when attending a new church as a first time visitor:
- What kind of events /activities do they have for my kids or for us as a family?
- Is there a Women’s Ministry or Men’s Ministry? (MOPS/Moms groups, too.)
- Is the church body giving matching the church budget requirements? I am one who loves seeing the giving/budget statements on church bulletins.
- Is there a central location where I can find the information I need to know (online, church info desk, lobby, etc.)
- How many, and what kinds, of small groups or Bible studies are offered?
- What is the community involvement of this church (missions, local, etc.)?
- Can I access their statement of faith, and where they stand on certain issues easily?
A lot of what fell on that list is superficial, and for some people that will be important. Especially when attracting new believers (or those who are seeking and not confessed believers). However, those things will not hold someone for very long before the flashy finish starts to fade. They want to see what the long haul holds. When our children were small, Children’s Ministry mattered a lot to me… as well as a church that hosted some sort of moms’ group. Yet, even at those earliest ages, I still looked into the future. Was there a youth group? Was there a Women’s Ministry? I wanted to know that our family could not only be in the church, serve in the church… I wanted to know that we could grow in the church.
It mattered to me that the church had a clear stand on certain issues, un-apologetically, and that we knew without a shadow of doubt the beliefs of our leaders. The financial stability of the church is a huge gauge on the health of the body. Not that I expected every week to see an overflow of giving, but that overall the church was stable for longevity. I wanted to find that the church offered a wide variety of studies that would be a soft landing for a new or young believer… as well as options that dug deeper so that we could spiritually grow within the church. It was important to us that the church was present in the community versus serving inward.