There are lots of opinions about what a local church should look like, but at its CORE, the local church is a body of believers who “should” have the goal of effectively reaching people who don’t have a relationship with God and making their faith-journey as easy as possible.
The truth is that lots of people want to connect with God, but the local church scares them to death.
The church exists as the vehicle of the Gospel of Christ, and in order to fulfill that role, we have to create weekend experiences that both saved and lost people love to attend. They won’t ever get to the inner courts if they don’t feel good at the front door.
That starts with us Realizing some things about the Guests who show up.
1: THEY’RE SEARCHING
This world is full of empty promises. Not that financial, career, and personal goals aren’t good – but they never fill the God-sized gap in all of our lives. People are searching for something that brings real fulfillment. They’re hungry for something that will give them peace, strength and certainty.
We know what the answer is.
We know the ONE who can fill their real core desires.
They may have lots of things going well in their lives, but always remember, when they show up, they’re searching.
2: THEY’RE FAKING
People enter your parking lot, and at first glance, they look like everything is fine. Their family is solid, their career is solid, their mindset is strong, and their kids are fine. But here’s something to remember: They’re Faking It.
All of us wear masks, and when guests arrive at your church, they’re probably wearing some pretty thick masks. Through the façade, remember that they have issues and needs, and that making it as easy as possible for them to get to God is the most important thing you can do for them.
3: THEY’RE ANALYZING EVERYTHING
From the moment guests arrive onto the first square inch of your property, they are analyzing everything. It’s the same thing you do when you go to a new restaurant or coffee shop. You look for the quality. You feel the atmosphere. You see the looks on the faces of the people working there. Guests at your church are no different, and within the first few minutes of them arriving, they are making decisions about whether or not they’ll ever be back.
The good news is that things don’t have to be perfect. Culture isn’t about perfection – It’s about (1) Excellence (2) the Qualities of the people doing the work.
Just make sure things are excellent, and that everybody involved remembers that Loving God and Loving People are their highest callings.
4: THEY MAY HAVE “CHURCH-BAGGAGE”
A recent Barna study among unchurched adults shows that nearly four out of every ten non-churchgoing Americans (37%) said they avoid churches because of negative past experiences in churches or with church people.
When guests arrive at your church, there’s a really good chance they’ve had a bad experience with church before. That’s terrible, but it’s OK. Our goal should be to introduce them to something different – a life-giving church experience where they are noticed, accepted, loved and cared for.
5: FOR NOW, THEY’RE JUST “CHECKING YOU OUT”
When somebody tries your church, most of the time, they want to fly under-the-radar at first. They’re checking things out and evaluating whether or not your church is a good fit for their family. They still have their bags packed. They haven’t moved in yet. They’re just stopping in to see if they like it there.
This is why your “First Impressions” teams are so important. Whatever they experience when they enter the parking lot, lobby, and auditorium will have a gigantic impact on their view of your church.
Beyond that, you need a system that allows people to be anonymous but is also easy for them to be acknowledged whenever they are ready. A simple Connect Card is an effective way to do this.
At some point in your service, welcome guests and talk about your connect card (or whatever your system is for collecting information).
Whenever a guest fills out your connect card, that’s a HUGE step for them. It’s their way of telling you that they’re ready to start connecting with your church. It’s MASSIVE, and it’s massively important that you have a clean follow-up process that responds to them taking that step, recognizing them, but not in an overwhelming or harassing way. It has to be relevant and genuine.
If your church needs a proven and effective guest follow-up plan, click here to grab our Free Guest Follow-Up Cheat Sheet.
6: GOD’S ALREADY BEEN TALKING TO THEM
This is such an important detail to know and remember. Outreach is great, but honestly, God is working on that. He’s dealing with the hearts of people all around your community Right Now.
When they finally arrive at our churches, they’ve already been hearing from God. Now, they’re searching for a place they can take the journey.
7: GOD IS CONSUMED WITH THEM
There’s an incredible parable in the New Testament that all of us know. It says that if He noticed that one was far from Him, He would leave 99 who were close to Him, and go search for the one that wasn’t. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love all of us, but it shows us how passionate He is for the ones who are not close to Him.
Think about it like this… If you were leaving your house, but had lost your keys, you wouldn’t be very focused on all the things you HAD – You’d be consumed with the thing that was VALUABLE to you that you had lost.
Remember, people who show up at your church, and they are far from God – God is CONSUMED with connecting with them. That gives us so much clarity on how to design our weekend services.
HINT: The weekend services aren’t really about the preferences of the “Already saved” people.
8: THEIR EXPERIENCE WILL IMPACT THEIR FUTURE
Maybe the greatest thing we can understand is that their experience at our church will radically impact their future. If you believe in the power and anointing of the local church, you agree with this statement.
It’s an enormous step for somebody to try a new church.
Their experience may be great, but it could also be poor.
That’s up to us.
Whatever happens on that Sunday will impact their lives and their future.
This is why Preparation is SO important.
Let’s pour our passion into preparation, so that when they show up, they can walk straight to Jesus and shift their entire family tree.
Our actions are driven by our perceptions, and the way we VIEW things.
Let’s get a clear view of the Guests who are going to show up at our churches.
Let’s prepare our weekend experiences as if it really does matter – because it does.
And as we pour ourselves into preparing, God will provide everything we need.
Brian serves as Staff Pastor at Church of the Crossroads in Corinth, MS, and co-owner of Faith Teams Software. He has a degree in church consulting and has worked with hundreds of churches across the country. Brian and his wife Lisa have been married for over 25 years, and they have two sons Avery and Adam.