About one out of seven guests told us, surprisingly, they did not return because the people were too friendly. Some noted that issue in the context of the stand-and-greet time, while others said it was an issue at all points in the church.

“I came away worn out from the visit to the church,” Justin told us. “The people were all over us. My wife and I and our two kids were one of very few young families there, and they seemed desperate to get us. We left asking ourselves, ‘Who are these people?’ We had seen some of them in town, and they sure weren’t friendly there. But they put on a good show when we visited.”

Justin’s comments about this church were common among those who shared this reason for not returning. The churches most often were older, established churches where the attendance has been declining and the median age has been increasing. For some of these churches, their friendliness comes across as either disingenuous or desperate or both.

What’s Next?

Sometimes I am surprised how serious guests are about learning about the churches they are visiting. Many of them really desire to see if the church is a place for them and their families.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Some of these guests are not Christians; they are really struggling with matters of the faith. Their visit is a clear indicator of the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They are seeking answers, and your church is a place they have come to get answers.

Other guests are believers, but they are making decisions about the church where they and their families will invest their lives. For committed believers, decisions about where they will go to church are not trivial issues.

So I should not be surprised that one of the challenges many guests expressed was the lack of clarity about next steps. Where can I get more information about the church? What are the next steps to becoming a part of the church? What are ministries that would impact my family and me?

In simple terms, what’s next?

Every church should have clarity toward answering this question. Every guest should know what’s next before he or she leaves the church grounds. And every guest should receive some type of follow-up within a short time, hopefully within twenty-four hours.

Many guests really want to know, “What’s next?”

Is your church ready to answer them?

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

I have just completed a series of lessons based on becoming a welcoming church. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year. Lessons correspond with three of Lifeway’s outlines as well as the International Standard Series.