Loose Pews & Parked Cars

The pastors I talk with don’t often get a chance to experience what a worship service in another church is like. Sometimes they don’t even think about what the worship service in their own church is like. I am not talking about the content of the message, but what does a visitor experience? We want to inspire you with church growth ideas that will help you with your church growth strategies.

I want to share some of the “Candid Look” articles that have been published in our “Attitudes!” magazine from Church Growth Associates. These reports are all written by one of our associates that made the “Candid Look” visit to the church. The name of the church is never published, but they are all true stories. We have a simple visitor welcome scale we use to evaluate, with a possible total score of 3320 points. Most churches in the United States would score 20 points or less on our scale. Such is the case of the church in this story. Churches that use our iConsultation, or our Onsite Consultation service, benefit by learning to become a 3320 point visitor welcome church.

Rick Robinson
Church Growth Associates

A “Candid Look” at church 2363

What do visitors see when they attend your church? If you are anything like I used to be, that question never really enters your mind. I know I never really thought about what a visitor went through, at least not until I had the opportunity to work for Church Growth Associates. One of my responsibilities is to pose as a church visitor, as part of the consultation process. Let me tell you about my first assignment as a “visitor”. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

I left that Sunday morning in plenty of time to find the church I had never seen before. I knew the general location of the church and figured I could stop and ask directions when I got in the vicinity of it. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The first place I stopped was a small gas station. There were two people working and neither one of them had a clue as to the location of my destination. My second stop was a food store and gas station combined. One of the ladies that worked there told me where she thought it was. I looked, it wasn’t there. I began to think I wouldn’t even find the church, at least in time to attend services that morning. As I was driving back to where I thought the church was I noticed a sign just off the side of the road and partially blocked by some trees. I could not read that side of the sign because it had a big hole in it. Once I got passed the sign I was able to look back and see that it was indeed the sign of my elusive church. By the way the two places that I stopped and asked directions; one of them was two blocks away and the other, one block away.

I drove up to the church and looked for a place to park. I didn’t see one at first. I did see other cars parked on the grass beside the church, but I couldn’t tell how they got there. I didn’t see a driveway. It ended up that I had to drive completely around the block and attempt my landing once more. This time I got lucky, I got behind someone that was going to the same place I was. I watched as my fellow church go-er drove onto the grass, around two trees, and parked beside and partially behind another car. “I can do that,” I said to myself, so I pulled my car onto the grass, around the trees, and to my amazement I was blocked. My fellow church go-er had not pulled up far enough. I guess he did that so he could be the first one out, because he made sure nobody else was going to come in that way.

Well believe it or not after my ordeal with finding a parking spot I still had enough time to freshen up before the service started. I began to look for a sign that would point me in the direction of a restroom but to no avail. I finally asked someone where it was and they pointed to a small black and white “Restroom” sign hanging from the roof of the walkway. Obviously a sign that only a church member would know was there. Anyway, I splashed water on my face and reached for a towel and, guess what? You guessed it, No towels! “You’ve got to be kidding,” I said to myself. I walked out shaking my hands trying to get them dry case I would have to shake someone’s hand.

I make it to the front doors of the church about 5 minutes before services started. I walked in and noticed about 8 men standing around talking. I was handed a bulletin and greeted with a simple “Good morning.” I sat down on the right side about 6 pews from the back. At that time there was no one sitting behind me and a lady and child sitting two pews in front of me. The service started on time, and for a while I was enjoying myself. Then came time to welcome the visitors. “Ok,” I thought to myself, “Lets see just how friendly these people are,” besides, that was one of the reasons I was there. Exactly 3 people greeted me. The lady that was sitting two pews in front of me leaned over and stuck out her hand. What was I to do? I leaned over my pew to take her hand, all the while holding on to my pew hoping not to fall. Little did I know my pew was not bolted to the floor. No, I didn’t fall but it was close. The other two people that shook my hand greeted me with a “Good morning” and that was it.

When the service ended I made it to my car with no “trouble”. What I mean is, no one stopped me to introduce himself or herself or invite me back. No one except the Pastor. You know how they all stand at the door after the service in order to see everyone on their way out. He was the only one to ask my name, give his name, and invite me back.

Now let me ask you again, What do visitors see when they visit your church? One of the purposes of this magazine is to help churches grow. I hope this true story has raised in you, some questions about what visitors go through when they visit your church. Maybe more important, what we as Pastors or lay people can do to make that visit a little more pleasant. Next time you encounter guests at your church remember – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

To see if Church Growth Associates can help your church, click here;  Can Church Growth Associates help my church? A consultant will contact you to hear your story.

Rev. Rick Robinson is a church growth consultant helping churches of all sizes with church growth and evangelism strategies.



Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

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