Helping People Find a Church: 25 Fair Warnings for Visitors

September 10, 2009 by

Scott McClellan over at Collide magazine talks about the coolest thing he’s seen on a church web site. What is it? A feature that helps visitors find a church by linking to other local churches they might want to try.

“We’re not in competition with the church down the street. If people come to Jesus, everybody wins.”

That’s pretty cool. After all, we’re not in competition with the church down the street. If people come to Jesus, everybody wins.

Fair Warning

But what if we took the idea of helping people find a church to the next level? What if instead of just pointing to other churches, we were honest about what people would find at our church? What if we acknowledged our flaws up front so visitors could find out now instead of after six months of pew-warming? What if we gave visitors fair warning about our flaws, issues and firm convictions?

Welcome to our church! … [Pick your fair warning:]

  • Our sermons run an hour plus and our pews aren’t padded: You do the math.
  • We work our volunteers to death. Then grumble when they want a break.
  • Drums are evil.
  • Our Sunday morning service is a major production. Sit back and enjoy the show.
  • Our people probably won’t talk to you until you volunteer for something and even then don’t hold your breath.
  • We pay lip service to social justice.
  • We stand up and sit down a lot, so try to keep up, OK?
  • Our sermons have more movie clips than Bible quotes.
  • You’re going to get lost on our sprawling campus. Bring a map or hire a guide.
  • We believe homosexuality is…
  • The only diversity you’ll find here is in our stock photography.
  • We’re so heavenly minded that we’re no earthly good.
  • We plan more social events than Bible studies.
  • Nothing ever starts on time at our church.
  • Our pastor is a minor celebrity with an ego to match.
  • We think the role of women in leadership is…
  • We’re really old.
  • Churchese spoken here. Translators are not available.
  • We’re good people but we’re going to judge you.
  • Our children’s ministry is an after thought.
  • We hug.
  • On Sunday morning you’ll never/always see an altar call.
  • Our people talk more gossip than gospel.
  • We lift up our hands and get a little crazy when we worship. It’s going to freak you out.
  • That’s how we’ve always done it is how we’ll always do it.

What about your church? If you had to give fair warning to a visitor, what would your church say? They may be honest, embarrassing or nothing to apologize for, but visitors should know. They’ll find out eventually.

The book on church visitors: Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time VisitorsMore:

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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4 Responses to “Helping People Find a Church: 25 Fair Warnings for Visitors”

  • Mike Lewis
    September 10, 2009

    I have gotten emails about failing ministries, most recently our Children’s Ministry, asking what programs we have because they want to visit. We don’t have much going on for kids (darn you, Simple Church!).
    So I told them the truth. I told them we have a hard time getting anyone to help, teach, lead this ministry. I haven’t heard back, but I cannot lie to people.

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  • Carla
    September 15, 2009

    I was taking this seriously until I read the comments. if you are serious, please remove inappropriate comments.

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  • Phil
    September 16, 2009

    Apply some common sense here and you’re not doing too bad, read this as an upfront statement of what your church is like and I am out of the door.
    Anyone involved in marketing should know about managing expectations. You don’t want to oversell something because immediately you’ll get a bad reputation. “See that church, they said that you’ll never have as much fun on a Sunday morning, but I went and it was a boring as…” Negative word spreads so quickly.
    Equally, you don’t want to go so far down the negative route that you put everyone off. “Our church is dry, boring and old fashioned.”
    The trick is to accurately portray what you are doing. Mike (previous comment) got it right by being honest about the childrens’ groups. What was the alternative, say yes we have something and then disappoint the people when they come to the church? However, for those of us that don’t have kids it’s not going to be a problem. It may even be an attraction.
    Of course he could have just gone with the line, “our kids don’t need children’s ministry. After six weeks in the main congregation they were all displaying above average IQ’s and could quite happily discuss predestination”.

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  • Lonnie
    September 16, 2009

    OK, after reading Carla’s comment, I am seriously wondering if my “Nursing Mom’s” suggestion was posted and deleted before I ever saw it. Hope it brought someone a chuckle.

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