To be fair, in our study of first-time church guests, we heard from a number of them who had really pleasant experiences, and decided to return. Let’s look at the top ten responses from the perspective of the happy guest. Some of them are just the opposite of the ten items listed above. I have included in this list direct quotes from the happy guests.

  1. Someone asked the guest to sit with her. “You know, as a single person, I can feel pretty lonely sitting by myself. I am so glad Joanie asked me to sit with her. We plan to get together for coffee.”
  2. People introduced themselves to the guests. “Several people introduced themselves to me. I did not get the impression it was either contrived or routine.”
  3. There was clear signage. “From the parking lot to the children’s area to the worship center, everything was clearly marked. It was easy to navigate.”
  4. There was a clearly marked welcome center. “It made it really easy for me to ask questions and to get some information on the church.”
  5. The kids loved the children’s area. “My kids were so happy with their experiences. We will be back for sure.”
  6. The children’s area was secure and sanitary. “That is one of the first things I check when I go to a church. This church gets an A+!”
  7. Guest parking was clearly visible. “From the moment we drove into the parking lot, I could find the guest parking. It was marked very well.”
  8. The church did not have a stand-and-greet time. “My wife and I just moved to the area and are visiting churches. If we visit one with that fake stand-and-greet time, we don’t return.”
  9. The members were not pushy. “They seemed to really care about us rather than just making us another number on the membership roll.”
  10. The guest card was simple to complete. “Some of the cards in other churches ask for too much information. This one was perfect and simple.”

Which list more accurately describes your church? Be careful and honest before you respond. About eight of ten guests had an experience that would better fit the unhappy guest category.

And sadly, few church members recognized it in their own churches.

So the first step in becoming a welcoming church may be the admission that your church may not really be a welcoming church.

Are you facing reality in your church?



Thom S. Rainer, Becoming a Welcoming Church (Nashville: B&H Books, 2018).