5 Emotions First-Time Guests Feel When They Arrive at Your Church

Studies have shown that we make more decisions based on emotion rather than logic. This is especially true when we think about first-time guests’ reaction to discussions of faith and religion.

5 Emotions First Time Guests Feel When They Arrive at Your Church

Regret

Regret has the potential to be the most powerful emotion that people experience when they come to your church. I like to think of this as comparable to buyer’s remorse, the feeling you get when you’ve purchased an item, walk out of the store, and suddenly feel as if you made a mistake.

When people step into the lobby of your church for the very first time, they often run into a deep sense of buyer’s remorse. Some will almost immediately feel the desire to turn around and walk out. This regret means that they are in over-processing mode and are looking for any excuse to leave. If they get a text from their long-lost aunt that they haven’t talked to in 25 years, that will take precedence over what is happening at your church on a Sunday morning. If they forgot the diaper bag, that will cause a mom to bail and decide not to drop her kids off at your programs. Regret drives (or inhibits) an incredible amount of action for first-time guests.

To combat this sense of regret, we need to clearly articulate early on that we are expecting guests to be with us. This impression is important because if a first-time guest with buyer’s remorse at least understands that we expected them, it reduces some of their regret and makes them more willing to give us a shot, even for that one moment.

Cultivating an environment of expectation helps our people feel at home and understand that God has a great plan for them.

Hope

A deep sense of hope also fills the hearts of first-time guests. The only reason why guests have come to your church is because there is some sort of need that they are hoping you will fill. Hope is the driving emotion that brings people to your church for the first time. As such, we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions:

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Do we understand the needs that drive our guests to our churches?

Are we acknowledging what those needs are in order to fulfill that sense of hope?

The reality is that if guests don’t believe that the church can meet their needs, they simply won’t come back. We know that somewhere close to only one in 10 guests ever return to a church in the future. One of the reasons they may decide to come back is because they have a sense that their needs are going to be met by that church sometime in the future. Their needs may be relational or maybe they’re struggling with raising their kids or wrestling with theological matters. Some people struggle with who is God and wonder what difference He could possibly make in their lives, while others understand God but wonder why they’re here and what their purpose is in the world.

Have a robust understanding of the needs of your people and take the time to address those needs in your printed material or through what you talk about on a Sunday morning.

Distracted

Frankly, when people arrive on a Sunday morning, they’re distracted. This may very well be the most prominent mindset that people experience as they join you on a Sunday morning. We are just one, very thin slice of their overall week. In the back of their minds, there are many other things they’re wondering about, including:

  • What’s for lunch?
  • Is my team going to win their game today?
  • Will my kids enjoy the program?
  • Does the pastor at this church have anything to say that’s relevant to me?
  • I wonder what’s going to happen at work tomorrow.
  • I wonder what my boss really thinks of me.
  • Is my mom going to call today and complain that I haven’t called her?
  • I wonder what my wife really thinks about that date we went on last night.
  • I’m so confused about why this church uses Comic Sans font in their advertising.
  • What’s going to happen next month? Next year? 10 years from now?
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All of these distracting thoughts and many, many more are firing in people’s brains at all time. Even as you’re reading this article, you are likely distracted beyond belief. Our culture has fed on this habit of distraction and we’ve heightened it with the cell phones in our pockets. This distraction means that we need to go out of our way to ensure that we are communicating clearly and simply.

We need to simplify what’s happening on Sundays. Too often, we try to communicate in subtle ways and that approach simply doesn’t work; subtlety doesn’t grab attention. We need to make the main thing the plain thing. We need to ensure that whatever it is we are trying to get across to our people that we communicate it in an incredibly simple and straightforward manner. We do not want to distract people with four things that will cause further distraction when we can present one key thought for them to focus on.

What do you feel when you go somewhere new?

To get inside the emotions your guests feel when visiting your church, go somewhere new and evaluate how you respond during the experience. I would encourage you to find a way to train your team and yourself to consider what guests need emotionally upon arrival. Click here to learn how to help your team members remember what it feels like to be a first-time guest at a new church.

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Rich Birch
Rich serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. He blogs at UnSeminary.com and is a sought after speaker and consultant on multisite, pastoral productivity and communications.