Copyright 2012 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
Are you looking for simple church growth ideas that will be worth your time? Part of your church growth strategy should be an evaluation of hidden signs. What is a hidden sign? Most people would answer that perhaps by describing a sign that is hidden by the over growth of a bush. Yes, that is a hidden sign all right, but in church growth terms there are other types of hidden signs. A hidden sign is what we are communicating to others without trying or thinking about it. That is the problem with hidden signs, we don’t think about them.
A church I worked with a while back had one of those molded plastic lighted signs out front that someone had thrown a rock through. I asked, “What does the sign out front say?” Someone responded, “It says we are closed!” They got the point. The sign was in plain view, but yet it was a hidden sign. What do the signs say when a first time visitor arrives to worship only to find no designated parking for your guest? Designated guest parking area signs send the message, “You are welcome here, we were expecting you!” No designated parking communicates, “We found our parking, you find yours!” What does no handicap access to your church communicate to those with special needs? Is there an accessible ramp and reserved parking areas? Do you have signs placed around your church to show newcomers how to find the restrooms, pastors’ office and other important areas that may make them feel like a part of your church instead of an outsider? A sign does not have to be a “sign” at all. Is your facility clean and well kept? It doesn’t have to be modern or fancy, Just clean and organized.
Paul wrote about being wise when it comes to outsiders, and in his instructions to Timothy about selecting deacons, he gives a qualification that our church should uphold.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
1 Timothy 3:7
He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.
Are you making the most of every opportunity? Look around your church and see how many hidden signs you find. Many of the hidden signs you will find can be taken care of for little or no cost. This church growth idea will be an investment in your ministry to newcomers and the attitude of your congregation that will be well worth the time, effort, and money. We can help you with church growth no matter what size your church is now. Check out some of our free resources in our library, or see how we can help you with an iConsultation or an Onsite Consultation.
LOOSE PEWS & PARKED CARS
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 worshipper drove onto the grass, around two trees, and parked beside and partially behind another car. “I can do that!” I said to myself. I pulled my car onto the grass and around the trees. Much to my amazement, I was blocked. My fellow worshipper 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 in 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, lets see just how friendly these people are.” I thought to myself. 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 and nobody invited 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 Attitudes magazine from Church Growth Associates, 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.”
A CROSS CARRYING CHURCH
USHERS IN THE AISLES
A “Candid Look” at Church 3115
How do those around us view our church? Are you known as the church that sells the Christmas trees or pumpkins every year? Almost every city has a church that does that. I am not criticizing anyone for raising money by selling trees, that is between you and God. Wouldn’t Christ want us to be known as the church that reaches into the community meeting needs? A place the community can find people who care when they need help. More importantly, how do they view us as members?
This “Candid Look” is about a church that starts each Sunday morning off with a fellowship breakfast. We did not attend the breakfast because that would give the members an opportunity to find out who we are. Our visit is to be done in the main worship service where most first time visitors will attend your church.
The worship service was a blend of contemporary praise and hymns along with the traditional worship culture. One thing that really impressed me, was the way the pastor brought along the visitors with an explanation of what was taking place. People do not want to feel like outsiders, they want to know they can make friends here.
At a certain place during the service the pastor asked an interesting question, “Who has carried the cross this week?” Two members stood up, each holding a wooden cross about six inches tall. The pastor explained that one way they share faith in Christ, is for members to carry the wooden cross in visible sight during the week. Not in a pocket or a purse, but right out in the open, praying for someone to ask, “Why are you carrying that cross around with you everywhere?” As I listened to the moving testimonies of how the week went for each person who carried the cross, I saw the Lord had used this tool to allow for conversation about Christ and the church. Next on the agenda, was finding members willing to carry the cross during the upcoming week. As the pastor asked, “Who will carry the cross during the upcoming week?” I am moved almost to tears, as people across the sanctuary stand raising their hands, so excited about the opportunity and not ashamed or frightened. One lady who had the cross in her hand pleaded for the opportunity to carry the cross yet another week. The pastor asked a man selected to carry the cross, “Will that be okay for you to wait another week?” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing! How many churches would respond that way? How would I respond if I were a member here? I’m now thinking, wow, this is great!
The message the pastor delivered that Sunday was down to earth and relevant to today’s living, but the message I received from the congregation was one I will never forget. The excitement and attitude of these people, who would some three months later attend our workshop, was refreshing.
A “Candid Look” at Church 1552
We work with churches of all sizes, but this experience took place in a church with about 1000 in worship. This church scored 120 points out of possible 3320 points on our Visitor Welcome Scale. Treatment of visitors is a very important part of the church growth mix of your church. Through our iConsultation, or our Onsite Consultation, we help churches improve the growth mix, and achieve 3320 points with every visitor they get. Can you identify things your church should or should not do from this example?
As we approach the grounds, the church is easily identified with the large sign at the road, and the name of the church on the side of the building. The entrance to the parking area has at least two options, we chose to take the second entrance today. This brings us to a drive around the back of the worship center. I could see what appeared to be parking lot attendants ministering out there, but where are those attendants? We seem to have the drop on them, and parking here without help is not easy. It is a large parking area to accommodate the 1000 or so people that will worship inside, and it is easier to find parking at the local shopping centers. The greeters are not wearing any type of identification, and since there are supposed to be parking attendants, there is no designated visitor parking area either.
Upon finding a space for the car, we make our way to the worship center. People are friendly if spoken to; otherwise they just pass you by. There is one youth passing out bulletins at the door as if it were a punishment for being late for Sunday School. We are presented a bulletin with no smile or eye contact. The building is a multipurpose structure that is now transformed into the worship center. As the auditorium fills with people, the ushers begin walking up and down the isles looking for available seating. Above the first floor is a walkway around the building leading to offices and education rooms. Additional ushers have positioned themselves there as “spotters” for the sanctuary ushers. I have seen many churches with this architecture, but this one almost has the feel of a prison.
The music begins and the worship service is underway. Lively praise music led by an enthusiastic worship leader, with a smile and an attitude that makes you glad you came today. The feeling of being in jail is diminishing. The Ushers are still doing their jobs in the aisles and on the platforms. After a couple of worship songs the pastor greets the worshippers and asks the guest to stand and be welcomed. Nearby members greet the guest in their area while the ushers pass out registration cards and return to the center of the aisles. During the sermon these ushers remain at “parade rest” in the center of the aisles. Yes, they were standing in the aisles during the entire service, and it is starting to feel like prison again. This makes me wonder what will happen should I decide to leave early.
The message is evangelistic and several people receive Christ during the time of
commitment. Well, those ushers are still in the aisles and now it’s time to go home.
No, they didn’t try to stop us, and they didn’t ask us to return. No follow-
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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.
The “Candid Look” articles below, have been published in previous editions of our “Attitudes!” magazine from Church Growth Associates, and have been very popular. 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. The purpose of these summaries is to inspire church growth ideas and encourage others to look at how they do church, not to criticize, or exalt any church.
We have a simple Visitor Welcome Scale we use to evaluate the visitor friendliness of a church. The scale has a possible value of 3320 points, yet most churches in the United States would score 20 points or less using this test. Churches that partner with us to use our iConsultation or an Onsite Consultation service, benefit by learning to become a 3320 point visitor welcome church.
WHAT CHURCH VISITORS SEE
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
A CANDID LOOK
WHERE THE COMPLEXITY OF CHURCH GROWTH INTERSECTS WITH THE SIMPLICITY OF THE GOSPEL
…upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
— Matthew 16:18