6 Ways Small Churches Drive Away Visitors

Key practices for a small church to follow when considering visitors.

Over half of all American Protestant churches are under 100 in weekly attendance. Though it may seem like all we hear about are the megachurches, small churches are still the life-blood of our faith. But what is it that keeps these churches small (if not intentional)?

In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a part of a small church, and I love it. While small churches don’t have the resources that a large church does, here are some key practices for a small church to follow when considering visitors.

1. They’re not friendly to new visitors.

This may seem like a given, but if you’re a visitor at a small church, it’s harder to blend in. Most visitors will make up their minds regarding the church within the first 10 minutes of their visit. It’s imperative that they are warmly greeted when they first arrive and guided to the appropriate area.

2. They’re too friendly to new visitors.

I’ve personally experienced this one. Once when I was visiting a church, a very friendly, well-meaning church greeter proceeded to hound me with personal questions about my life and background, and they even followed me into the bathroom to continue the conversation! Then during the service, everyone was instructed to break into groups to “spend time getting to know the visitors.” Needless to say, I was extremely overwhelmed and didn’t return to that church.

Keep in mind that most visitors to your church are initially exploring your community. People process new things and places differently. Some would love a group meet and greet and others prefer to observe before jumping in. Don’t overwhelm your first-time visitors or put them on the spot.

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3. There are no easy connection points.

Make it as easy as possible for a visitor to learn more information about the church or connect with a pastor. Be sure there is a clearly marked place or table where a guest can pick up information or brochures. You may also want to consider putting information in some of the seats or along the sides of the pews. At the very least, flash your church’s website on the screen during the announcement time.

4. The service is poorly executed.

A small church rarely has the resources and technology of a megachurch, but that shouldn’t stop them from executing a consistent and excellent worship service. Take the time to properly train your volunteers on lighting and sound equipment. Are the musicians prepared on Sunday? If not, consider implementing a practice during the week or the morning before the service. And remember, you can’t ever overcommunicate the service order. Make sure everyone knows their transition cues when entering and exiting the stage so you can avoid awkward dead time. It doesn’t cost any extra money to do things well.

5. There’s too much focus on “church business.”

From time to time, it’s necessary that a church addresses some “family business” in a Sunday worship service. This may be an announcement about an upcoming event or a shift in childcare. But be sure that this isn’t a large part of the service or a weekly occurrence. Visitors aren’t emotionally invested in your church and can find the business of the church off-putting.

6. They feel pressured during the offering.

Giving is an important and necessary part of the church. Not only is it biblical, it’s also wonderful spiritual practice for church members to participate in. When done well, it builds community and encourages generosity outside of the church walls. But be sure the fashion in which your church takes offerings isn’t an awkward or overly public practice. A visitor shouldn’t feel the expectation to give. If there’s an “altar call” style of giving, it’s hard to feel completely comfortable letting that plate pass by you.

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Consider moving your offering to some boxes at the back of the auditorium. And if you’re not already, look into mobile and online giving. Members can set up reoccurring gifts, text to give from their phones and keep track of their annual giving.

How will you prepare for your visitors this weekend?

  • Jim Bob

    Small churches are small because 80-100 people is all one person can pastor. The congregation is made up of clicks, families that are all connected and not open to outsiders. The leaders are content with their flock and the control/power they have. The small congregation is focused on the building, programs and not the Head.

    • Pastor Cook

      When you pastor a small rural community church you’re never going to be able to have a mega church. The population just will not allow it. Some of the most caring and grateful and giving people that I’ve ever been acquainted with attended small rural churches. I Pastor a small Church of about 70 people we’re all just like family. When folks visit our church they say it’s one of the warmest friendliest and Spirit-filled churches they have ever attended. We’re not content with our four and no more. We have a lot of outreach we volunteer in five Public Schools, run a van route, five radio stations, visitation and live stream.