It’s uncomfortable for a person who’s unfamiliar with God and church to go to church for the first time. Oftentimes they feel as though they’re taking a huge risk by even showing up. Unfortunately, there are a lot of things that churches do to make guests feel even more uncomfortable when they go to church for the first time. Here are just a few…
Use Insider Language
Churches are notorious for using cute insider language like the “Butterfly Room” for the 2-year-olds. Just call it the 2-year-old room; that’s going to help guests understand it and not feel like an outsider. No guest knows if their kid should go in the butterfly room or the lady bug room…they’re raising kids not bugs. Also stay away from acrostics…I know every good Christian in America should know what FPU means, but I’m telling you, people who are new to church have no idea what you’re talking about. And if it’s confusing to them it could be the difference in them leaning in toward Jesus or away.
Point Them Out
New people love to be singled out and made the center of attention, so make sure you do something like have them all remain seated and have everyone greet them in the worship service at some point. I hope you know that I’m kidding…if you don’t, let me let you in on a little secret…I’m kidding. Don’t point out new guests. Instead think through creative and nonthreatening ways for guests to self-identify themselves and let you know they’re there.
Make It Confusing to Navigate the Building
Make sure that you don’t use clear signage throughout your building. Guests should just know where to go when they come to our church, and if they don’t it’s their own fault. If they came to church more often they’d figure it out. When guests don’t know where to park, don’t know which entrance to go in, and have a difficult time navigating the facility because you haven’t thought about that for them and helped them through great way-finding, that always makes an already awkward situation worse.
Don’t Update Your Facilities
That church building that looks and smells like it’s fresh out of 1980…yeah don’t update it, it’s vintage. We don’t need to impress people with our building. We’re here to worship God, not a building. I don’t think church buildings need to be crazy, over the top impressive…but when a church facility is not on par with other public spaces in the community, it’s going to make guests feel uncomfortable.
Have Weird People Taking Care of Their Kids
It’s weird dropping off your kids with someone you’ve never met before. It probably even makes some people feel like bad parents. Dropping off a kid in a room that is dirty and has old carpet, where the toys aren’t clean, or a room that smells bad, can make guests feel very uncomfortable. Not to mention dropping off kids where there is only a teenager or a male volunteer in the room can plain creep guests out. Oh, and make sure you don’t change their kids’ diapers and give the kids back to the guests with a dirty diaper…that always makes guests feel comfortable (sarcasm intended).
Ever been uncomfortable visiting a church for the first time? What made it so awkward for you? What are some other things you’ve seen churches do to make guests feel uncomfortable? Leave a comment—I’d love to hear about your experience and observations!
This article originally appeared here.