June 13, 2018 Tony Morgan

5 Ways to Impress Your Church’s First-Time Guests | Episode 45 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

Here Are a Few Ways to See Your Church with Fresh Eyes.

In this week’s episode, I interviewed Amy Anderson, The Unstuck Group’s director of consulting, about the most common “misses” she sees when churches welcome first-time guests. Whether it’s a crowded bulletin or a lengthy message, these issues typically have easy (and inexpensive) solutions.

In this video, we discuss:

  • Why first impressions matter… whether it’s your welcome team, your website, or even your interior design

  • How to make first-time guests feel “in-the-know” right when they walk in the door

  • How to make easy and inexpensive changes to better welcome outsiders

Join the Conversation:

What are some ways that you have found make your church more welcoming? Have any questions about something you heard in the podcast? We’d love to hear your thoughts by commenting below or using #unstuckchurch on social media.

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Podcast Transcript

Tony Morgan: 00:00

Hello, everyone, before we get to today’s episode, I have a new resource I’m excited to share with you. You know, for years pastors have told me they feel stuck. That’s really why I started The Unstuck Group, but this month I’m offering a brand new tool. It’s my first online course. I compiled the 12 most common issues I’m seeing in churches that get stuck, and I developed a full path to equip you to lead a church to health and growth. We’re going to include a private Facebook group and have special live events for participants is going to be a lot of fun. Enrollment is open today, but we’re only keeping it open for a few weeks so we can make sure to really engage and support this first group going through the course. Check it out courses.theunstuckgroup.com.

Tony Morgan: 00:59

Well, welcome to the Unstuck Church podcast. I’m Tony Morgan. I’m here with Amy Anderson, and each week we share a conversation our team has been having about getting churches unstuck, and today we’re going to talk about weekend misses for churches that want to reach new people and because of that, Amy and I are actually swapping roles. I kind of liked this doing the intro to the podcast, Amy, but Amy has had so many years of experiences leading weekend service teams that I actually wanted to get her perspective on all this. So we’re flipping roles today. Amy, are you excited about that? I got some big shoes to fill. Well, I promise I will. I will purposely try to make mistakes as the host of this podcast

Tony Morgan: 01:49

that I don’t supersede your role in the future. Are you good with that?

Amy Anderson: 01:53

Yeah, your intro was great by the way. Well done.

Tony Morgan: 01:56

All right, so here’s the deal. Over the last several months we’ve been working with our ministry consultants on our team at The Unstuck Group to redesign our secret shopper experience that we use as part of our ministry health assessment. Basically we go into churches and kind of give that first time perspective of somebody visiting a church, but I’d like you to kind of explain first of all what that new secret shopper experience is all about.

Amy Anderson: 02:24

Sure. Well, big picture, like you said, it’s the very first step in our Unstuck Process, and that’s intentional because before we get too close to the church, to the people, their hearts, the leaders, we just go and attend their church. We bring a fresh eyes perspective, and so we try to put on the mindset that we’re just a normal person in their community. We don’t dive too deep into their web pages. We just find what we need, where the locations are, and then we just go to church as people who don’t usually go to church, so we’ll punch the address into Google Maps, will drive onto the property, walk in, and that’s really where the fun begins because then we just started experiencing the church and action. We make sure churches don’t give their teams a heads up. We don’t. In fact, didn’t one church put your picture in there?

Tony Morgan: 03:15

It’s not much of a secret shopper experience when your pictures in the bulletin.

Amy Anderson: 03:20

So we try to go and really, um, you know, under the view of the rest of the teams and will attend the service. We’ll check out the kids’ ministry. And then again, just big picture after that experience we give churches a report that gives them perspective and how they’re doing and six major areas. So real quick, the first one is just the pre-visit, you know, people form an opinion before they walk through your doors. I would say nine out of 10 a will go to your website before they’ll ever come to your church. They’re going to check it out. We drive by your building. We kind of see what it looks like. So we’ll give you an assessment. Are in that category, the facility itself, you know, what does it look like, what does it feel like? Can I find my way around? A third area is guest services.

Amy Anderson: 04:03

What did it feel like to come onto your campus? Were you ready for me? Did I feel like I was a guest? Was it comfortable? And of course I could flip it. Was it weird? Was it awkward, was it, you know, exclusionary. And then of course we look at kids’ ministry, the actual worship experience in the message, and so we’ll give ratings and all of those categories. But the punchline is really at the end of the assessment, which is we answer the question, did the overall experience compel me to return next week and would I invite someone to return with me? So the churches get a deliverable that’s very visual, um, and really unpacks, here’s where your strengths are, here’s where you’re doing well, keep doing that. And then here’s some areas where you’re not doing so well. And often I would say for some senior pastors, it confirms what they’ve been thinking and seeing. And then for others it’s like “I had no idea.” And, and you know, once they see it, Tony, um, it’s on their radar now. They can’t unsee it, I think is what we’ve often said. So, yeah.

Tony Morgan: 05:04

Yeah. That last question, would I invite someone to return with me? We actually, we kind of use that same type of question when we look at customer satisfaction for The Unstuck Group, for the churches that we’re serving. So every business would tell you, will someone refer you to another potential customer is key to growing your business and the reality is even for us as churches though, we’re not trying to sell anything, I’m people still come because their friends invite them and so if you go, if you go through a weekend experience and your, your response as a first time guest is that. No, I don’t think I would invite anybody to this. You’re going to have a tough time growing a healthy, thriving church if that, if that is the first impression. So any? Yeah. All right. See I, I started flipping roles again.

Tony Morgan: 05:59

I apologize. That was my first mistake. That’s alright. So here’s the deal. Uh, although I’m talking to you, this conversation is somewhat about me because the genesis of this podcast today was an article that I wrote. It was called The Top 10 Weekend Misses for Churches That Want to Reach New People. And the reality is, I just collected a lot of feedback I was hearing from the ministry consultants on our team, and I’m going to share some of the misses and today’s podcast and I’d kind of like you to elaborate on those two up for that. I’m ready. Alright. Okay. So here’s the first one. The first observation was this, the church didn’t welcome me and help me know what to expect. So what’s your reaction to that?

Amy Anderson:                    06:50                       Man, that is a huge one. And by the way, it’s so easy to fix, but it is amazing how many churches missed that opportunity to welcome me. When I go to churches, when I do the secret shopper, I often think it’s like everybody knows the drill except me. Someone often, you know the, the, the service starts. Someone yells, “Good morning!” and all of a sudden everyone’s standing, and then they start singing or raising hands in some cases. And after three songs I’m like, are we just going to sing today? But I don’t know the drill, right? No one has given me any place to put what we’re going to experience, what my role in is it, there’s no verbal cues that are putting me at ease. Um, so anyways, a simple welcome, something that communicates to new people that you were expecting me and just give me a few tips on what to expect. Something as simple as we’re glad you’re here, we invite you to sing along, but if you’d rather listen, that’s fine too. We’ve got a message coming up in the second half of the service, whatever. Just a little guidance. So, that’s a big mess. And by the way, when we point that out, churches are often surprised by it because all the regulars were very welcomed by that welcome stand up and they just, they don’t know it anymore.

Tony Morgan: 08:03

Yeah. And it’s why I think it’s actually a good thing for periodically for leaders who are shaping weekend service experiences to actually go to a church that’s outside your face, just to get, get the experience of what a first time or is experiencing a. So yeah, that’s great. All right. It’s not great, but thanks for giving us some advice or encouragement. That is easy. All right, here’s another observation. Another weekend. Miss People onstage don’t reflect who the church is trying to reach. That’s another good one. Yeah, that’s another common mistake we’re seeing. So what’s your reaction there?

Amy Anderson: 08:41

Well, and it is a big miss. I could probably spend the entire podcast just on that whole topic of who’s on your platform. Um, and again, I go back to the weekend. Service is the big front door for people to your Church of course, but also it’s a big front door where people who are far from God come to experience and even check God out, right? God and faith out. It’s their first exposure to it. So the people on the platform are huge leaders to them. Meaning if you’ve got someone on your worship team, they’re going to be more visible than some of the key leaders behind the scenes. So they just set the tone, and they communicate things that they maybe don’t even know they’re communicating it. So when we talk about who we’re trying to reach, if we’ve got a platform full of people who are all all older, for example, your young attenders aren’t going to see anyone that really looks like them on the platform.

Amy Anderson: 09:38

And you know, we’ve talked about this before, but the book “For a New generation,” he would say Lee Kricher, he would say, um, that many churches missed this 75 percent rule, meaning that he would say 75 percent of the people on the platform need to be in your kind of target customers age range or below. And that’s because we look for people who look like us. So most senior leaders are a little bit older and if that’s the case, you’ve got to look at to try to find a balance of how do you bring some diversity onto the platform. So people know that this is a church that’s for them.

Tony Morgan:10:12

That’s right. That’s good. All right, here’s the third observation. Um, misses for weekend services, if we’re trying to reach new people and that’s this: every teaching pastor needs to prepare for this. But the, the miss is this: your message is too long.

Amy Anderson: 10:33

That’s always. It’s so true. Okay. So first, let me just affirm it. Uh, it’s always dicey when we do the secret shopper because we write the secret shopper for the senior pastor, and this is one that frequently, you know, we’ve got to tee up because again, they are great teachers, but just like anything else, people have an attention span that is limited and it’s more limited today probably than it was 10 years ago. Um, we talked, I think on our last podcast just about that whole time thing. People value their time and I, it takes a fantastic teacher to hold my attention for 45 minutes, and really good teachers, I probably have about 30 to 35. And so when the message gets long, here’s just a couple things that happen. Anytime they switch gears, uh, we start to check our watch and pretty soon you’re just wanting this pastor to end the service.

Amy Anderson: 11:29

And by the way, when the messages long, uh, we already sat through as a new person about 20 to 25 minutes of music we didn’t know. Um, or announcements we didn’t really care about yet and now we’re getting into that 45 minute range with a message and often that’s not the final piece of the service, you know? Uh, so it’s hard just to stay locked and loaded on a when it gets long. So we often coach, you know, that 30 to 35 minute range and it’s hard. It’s hard, but messages actually get better when they get tightened up a little bit because you know this as a writer, right? Tony, you’re constantly in a sense taking things out so that you can make the communication really crisp, really clear. Um, and so I often coach senior pastors or teaching pastors, um, on things that they could have taken out that would have because they already made the point, but they’re continuing on. So anyways, I just think you need to tighten up the message, and then you need to give me a clear next step. I know you didn’t ask that, but especially after a long service, it’s been over an hour. Now what do I need to do differently as a result of what I just heard? And often that application, especially in a long message can get lost because I’m already trying to check out and head out.

Tony Morgan:                       12:44                       That’s right. All right. So in an effort to follow through, let’s keep this podcast moving so it doesn’t become too long. Here’s another common issue that we’re seeing. The, uh, the bulletin or program, whatever you prefer to call it, is too crowded. So that, that was the comment I was surprised to know that churches still have bulletins because my church doesn’t. But apparently there are still church bulletins out there. Do we call them bulletins? Just saying that’s an alert. We have a bulletin. Yeah.

Amy Anderson: 13:18

Yeah, definitely a huge mess. It’s one of the areas it gets scored low quite a bit because again, we started writing them for all the insiders. We aren’t thinking about the outsider in mind and if you’re thinking about the outsider need to have a really clear welcome to them on the inside and then a few things that are important to them. Tell me about kids ministry. Um, tell me about what to expect in the service. But I’ll tell you what we often find in that is like, here’s how to give, here’s how to become a member, here’s how to start serving and new people, they don’t, that’s not their big headline questions and your regular people know how to get information. So it needs to be simple communicating the most important things.

Tony Morgan: 13:56

That’s good. All right. Remember, these are weekend misses for churches that are trying to reach new new people. Uh, last one we’ll hit on today’s podcast. Again, you can go to the website and check out the article on these 10 weekend messes. But the last one I wanted to hit is this, the feel of the church. And here we’re talking about the interior design. Feels like nothing else that I experienced outside the church.

Amy Anderson: 14:27

That’s right. Now, outside the church there’s trees, green, life, color, sounds; when you walk in the church and it’s often brown dark, a little dusty at times. Now a lot of churches do this well, but there are also a lot of churches that just don’t see it anymore. They’ve got plastic flowers in their restrooms. They’ve got literally flannel graphs or bulletin boards with thing and it just looks, it just looks really shoddy and if you think about where unchurched people spend their time, different places, whether it’s workplaces, community centers, nice restaurants, you’re getting compared to that and they again, it matters where they spend their time and what it looks and feels like and we’ve, we’ve joked about the smell of church for a long time, but that’s still real when you’ve got worn out carpet or broken down furniture and if you’ve got tables out with a bunch of junk all over it or every corner crammed with stuff and paper, it’s just cluttered. You don’t see it anymore, but new people see it and they get a wrong impression. Well they get a, they get an impression based on that experience and so you need to bring some fresh eyes to that interior design.

Tony Morgan: 15:30

By the way, you mentioned the color brown, but mauve too. Mauve is, is not an appropriate color for today. All right. Any, any final encouragement and you’d like to offer churches that want to try to reach new people?

Amy Anderson: 15:43

Oh yeah. And maybe I said it in the very beginning, but just my encouragement is that when it comes to making improvements to the weekend for the first time attenders, most solutions don’t cost much or anything. It doesn’t cost anything to figure out how to welcome people or put them at ease. It doesn’t cost anything to tighten up a message or declutter a bulletin or program, whatever you want to call it. Many times it’s just seeing what the new person sees with fresh eyes. So at a minimum, I would encourage churches, if you have questions in this area, invite someone you know who doesn’t go to church and invite them to your church and go with them and I’ll tell you what, you will see your church and a whole new way. I had a brother, I have a brother who’s, um, he’s, he’s not a, you know, a Christ follower, but I invited him to church for years, and one time he just said, hey, my wife and I are going to go to Easter at your church. And I went and sat with him, and I’ll tell you, I’ve never, in my case, I was never more proud of my church, but it becomes real when people, you know, walk through those doors and sit through the service. So anyways, those are easy things that you can change as you think about a new person.

Tony Morgan: 16:49

All right, that’s a good word, Amy, and goodness, this was a lot of fun. Maybe we should swap roles more often. What do you think?

Amy Anderson: 16:56

So I think I’m probably a better host, Tony. I mean not the new. I mean, you’re probably better.

Tony Morgan: 17:03

All right, well I think I’m supposed to actually wrap up this podcast. So let me see if I can do that. If you want to learn more about the Unstuck Group’s Health Assessment, which includes the secret shopper experience that amy mentioned today, you can go to the unstuckgroup.com/assessment. And thanks again for joining our conversation about getting churches unstuck. We hope you will tune in in the future and be sure to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcast, so you don’t miss an episode. And we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments. So join the conversation on social media at #unstuckchurch.

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Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
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