The Forgotten Few Minutes Before Church

The Forgotten Few Minutes Before Church

March 11, 2013 by

It’s Sunday morning. Your parking lot is covered—no one is getting inside without being safely directed into a parking spot. Your greeters all remind you of a hug from your grandmother—warm and a little bit squishy. And your ushers are kind of like your parking team, but they couldn’t handle the extreme weather changes, so instead they guide people to a seat.

What happens in those few minutes after your visitors take their seat in the auditorium/sanctuary/worship center and before service begins? I speak of visitors because, let’s be honest, they’re the ones who come early. Your regulars meander in because they know what to expect. It’s easy to forget about those few minutes, yet they matter when lost people find themselves in a seat at your house.

Vibe. You know what I’m talking about. It’s the never seen, but always felt energy. It’s the groove you want everyone to feel. After all, you’re about to ask them to engage for next hour or more and you need a solid starting point. Vibe communicates a lot about your church. Vibe is found in the environment.

Your church’s approach to this time needs to fit your values. Whatever your worship environment, here are some things to think about that will help you become more intentional about the vibe that is being experienced in this time:

What do you want people hear? Maybe it’s music fitting your worship style, silence for a reverent room or the buzz from people sharing their life stories with each other.

What potential distractions can be heard: A guitar tuning on stage, your pastor checking his microphone, kids running around the sanctuary?

Where are people looking: Up at giant screens with well-presented announcements, down at their carefully laid out bulletin or handouts, out at their physical surroundings?

What could negatively impact some one’s visual experience: A stage cluttered with cables and random personal items, lack of personal space in the seats, a banner that is frayed or about to fall off?

Emotive and, at times, frustratingly subjective. So throw some adjectives out there! Joyful. Welcoming. Peaceful. Rockin’. What are you doing to express these things?

What could be felt in your room that takes away from this: Fear of the unknown, anxiety over what’s expected, deep-seated guilt?

Improve the Vibe
Listen, see and feel the vibe that visitors experience in those forgotten few minutes before your church service starts. Once you’re paying attention to that experience, you can start to improve it.

For me, one of the most impactful parts of Creative Missions 2012 was how the interaction with gospel-minded local church leaders opened up my eyes to the church and the glimpse I saw of how huge and beautiful God’s kingdom is. The relationships and conversations I built with creative missionaries from all across the country further opened up my perspective. Hopefully, you’ve been able find a helpful thought here that will serve you well as you continue to reach the lost in your area for Jesus.

We’re thrilled to partner with Creative Missions (our nonprofit parent, the Center for Church Communication, handles the Creative Missions finances). Learn more about Creative Missions and this year’s trip to Alaska and consider a financial donation to help church communicators help other churches communicate better.


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

Post By:

Kim Fukai

Kim Fukai is the director of programming & production at Grace Point Church in San Antonio, Texas. As a member of Creative Missions 2012, she had an amazing experience coordinating the Creative Missions worship conference and serving local churches with the Tech Team.
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10 Responses to “The Forgotten Few Minutes Before Church”

  • Kelvin
    March 11, 2013

    Important reminder for me to pay attention to this part of the service as I work towards making the entire service the message. Great post Kim!

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  • Mike Barker
    March 11, 2013

    A member of our church recently complained that he felt the time before worship began at our formal service seemed more like a fraternity gathering or family homecoming, rather than a worship service. Later our staff reflected that we didn’t think we minded that time period being like a homecoming event (a fraternity party, not so much.) But we were reminded that there is a polarity built in to this aspect of worship as with so many others: those who want the time quite and reverential and those who see it as a boisterous time of catching up with church friends. The matter has been referred to a committee to discuss and decide if we want to try to shape a change, or explicitly relay to the congregation why we are comfortable with how things are. Thanks for giving me, in this article, some language to help guide the conversation.

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    • Andy Akins
      March 11, 2013

      Make sure your committee is made up of a few open-minded people. People who have been in church all their lives don’t always have the best opinion when it comes to a first-time guest because they’re comfortable as all get out coming in. Also, too many voices can cloud the result. Do what feels right for that first time guest & teach your long term people to adopt it. Good luck!

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    • Chris
      July 8, 2013

      RE: Mike Barker comment:
      If you actually listen to those loud and buzzy conversations before the service, they often are not about sharing spiritual experiences or catching up with the family. They’re often about personal adventures, ball games played, scores attained, how your favorite ____ team is doing, movies watched, or coming events. The pre-service noise is relatively common in many churches. Perhaps it is a tell of why religion is growing in non-relevance and the “nones” are gaining ground. Good post Kim!

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  • Colt Melrose
    March 11, 2013

    Great post Kim! Thanks for the reminder to evaluate every step of a visitor’s journey through our space on Sunday mornings. Even the regulars will benefit from the intentionality brought to this time as well.

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  • Mike McGinnis
    March 11, 2013

    Kim. Vibe? I don’t get it at all. Just kidding! You rocked this post. The little things add up to big things pretty quickly and vibe runs through it all. Peace signs and high fives.

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  • Kathy
    March 13, 2013

    It’s often suggested to members that they should greet someone they don’t know in the first few minutes at the end of a service. If there’s generally lots of conversation prior to the service, encourage your regular attenders to greet people they don’t know as well as their friends.

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  • Joe Wickman
    March 13, 2013

    I totally loved this post. Those few minutes before the service are absolutely crucial. We’re constantly reminding ourselves to make the most of it. If the controllable factors are just right, we gain a great opportunity to make a first impression and personal contact with a first-time or returning guest.

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