I’m not currently serving a church, which means I’ve been church-hopping. It’s fascinating to see our beloved Presbyterian churches with the eyes of an outsider.
Every clergyperson should get the time and distance to do this. We would quit saying things like: Why don’t people go to church? Because we would know.
Last Sunday when I was guest preaching, I noticed a young mother trying to slip into a back pew. She couldn’t because the back pews were full. The back pews were the ONLY ones full because it was an early service on a cold morning. Attendance was low and there was a void in the center of the sanctuary. As a lay leader made the announcements, I watched the mother shepherd her son and daughter into a pew. The children looked to be early elementary age, and were so well-behaved that I assumed they were accustomed to being in church.
After the service, this mother shook my hand, beaming. When she spoke her name, I realized we had made acquaintance before. It turned out that she was a first-time visitor. She was full of joy for having walked into an unfamiliar church and spotted a familiar face in the pulpit.
After she got her children settled in Sunday School, we had a longer talk. She told me about her experiences church-shopping. She could report on every Presbyterian church in an eight mile radius. Her words were worth gold to those churches!
Between the two of us, we could have created a checklist:
- How effective were Googlemaps and GPS in getting me to your door?
- How convenient was parking? How difficult was it to determine which door to use?
- Was I greeted at the door? Offered a bulletin? How easy/awkward was it to find a seat?
- Did anyone other than the appointed greeter greet me? What did they say?
- How was the singing? Did the congregation appear to enjoy singing? How varied was the music?
- How did the choir sound? Did others appear to appreciate their musical offering?
- Was the sermon an appropriate length? Did it flow well? Did it give something to think about in the week ahead? How engaged did people appear to be?
- How loud/clear was the sound quality of the microphones?
- How easy/difficult was it to get a cup of coffee during fellowship hour?
- What activities were highlighted? What programs and ministries?
- What was unusual or unique about this church?
The most important question, of course, is this one:
- Will I return? Why or why not?
Friends, I urge you to see your church the way outsiders do!