Growing in Practicing Radical Hospitality

Congregations that practice Radical Hospitality demonstrate an active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Christ. Radical describes that which is drastically different from ordinary practices, outside the normal, that which exceeds expectations and goes the second mile. – Bishop Robert Schnase

Ways Churches Drive Away First-time Guests

Thom Rainer

Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.

Unfriendly church members. This response was anticipated. But the surprise was the number of respondents who included non-genuine friendliness in their answers. In other words, the guests perceived some of the church members were faking it.

Unsafe and unclean children’s area. This response generated the greatest emotional reactions. If your church does not give a high priority to children, don’t expect young families to attend.

No place to get information. If your church does not have a clear and obvious place to get information, you probably have lowered the chances of a return visit by half. There should also be someone to greet and assist guests at that information center as well.

Bad church website. Most of the church guests went to the church website before they attended a worship service. Even if they attended the service after visiting a bad website, they attended with a prejudicial perspective. The two indispensable items guests want on a website are address and times of service. It’s just that basic.

Poor signage. If you have been attending a church for a few weeks, you forget all about the signage. You don’t need it any more. But guests do. And they are frustrated when it’s not there.

Insider church language. Most of the respondents were not referring to theological language as much as language that only the members know. My favorite example was: “The WMU will meet in the CLC in the room where the GAs usually meet.”

Boring or bad service. My surprise was not the presence of this item. The surprise was that it was not ranked higher.

Members telling guests that they were in their seat or pew. Yes, this obviously still takes place in some churches.

Dirty facilities. Some of the comments: “Didn’t look like it had been cleaned in a week.” “No trash cans anywhere.” Restrooms were worse than a bad truck stop.” “Pews had more stains than a Tide commercial.”

The congregation was old. “When I looked at the age of those attending, I knew there wouldn’t be anything there for my children.”

There was clutter everywhere. “The church building looked like a Goodwill store for Bibles, books, umbrellas, and clothes. I did not want to return.”

People were gathered in cliques talking to each other. “I could tell before the service that I didn’t belong to their club.”

People got the aisle seats first. “I had to climb over eight people to get a seat. They seemed disgusted I was there.”

There was inadequate signage for people with small children. “From the parking lot to the front door to the preschool area, I had no idea where to go. It was frustrating.”

There was no worship guide or bulletin. “I saved the bulletins from the churches I visited. If a church did not have one, I forgot all about it.”

The check in process for children was slow and disorganized. “My kids were screaming the whole time; I’m not going back.”

There were memorial plaques everywhere. “They were on the pews, the tables, the organ, the piano, and the windows. It was creepy. I felt like I was in a funeral home.”

The worship service nor events started on time. “My family rushed to get there on time, but the service started over ten minutes late. No one seemed to know what they were doing.”

People were saving seats. “They might as well had a sign that said, ‘You are not welcome near me.’”

FOCUSED SCRIPTURE

Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:7 & 13)

How Are You Willing To Help Holman Church Improve In Practicing Radical Hospitality?