Every church I know of holds weekend worship services. Most of them hold at least 52 a year. Nearly all of them will have visitors show up, even if by accident.
We don’t often realize the incredible anxiety most of them feel as they walk through our doors.
Their minds are racing with questions.
The answer to those questions will most likely determine whether they ever return.
For some, it may even determine where they spend eternity!
Here’s my unofficial list of a first time guest’s questions:
1. Is the roof going to cave in on me? Or sometimes stated, “Am I going to get struck by lightning?”
Many of our guests feel the incredible contrast between their current lifestyle and what God wants from them. Because of this, they think that God and they are on the outs and that He’s probably ticked off at them.
2. Is anyone going to acknowledge me?
This is human nature. When we enter and walk into an organization we believe to be customer-driven, we expect someone to speak to us. Whether we are visiting a church or a restaurant, or a store. We get weirded out if NO ONE even tries to acknowledge our presence.
3. Are my kids going to be safe?
For many, their most frequent exposure to churches and children has been news stories of pedophiles violating kids. They’ve taught their kids all their life to be wary of strangers, and now they’re not only surrounded by them, but you’re asking them to “trust” you.
4. Is the message going to be boring or confusing?
Most of the unchurched do have some church background. For the vast majority, their only exposure to preaching was negative. They think of the Bible as totally irrelevant to normal people and preaching as either a remedy for insomnia or some ranting lunatic who thinks volume is a motivational tool.
5. Am I going to be dressed right?
Have you ever gone to an event either overdressed or under-dressed? Nothing can be more embarrassing and uncomfortable. Since church attendance is not routine in their life, it only stands to reason that they probably do not know the dress code and are looking around to see if they stand out.
6. Will I know where to go?
Do you remember your first day of middle/high school or college? You’re given a class schedule but rarely a map. That’s when you figure out that clear signage can be a lifesaver! After a few weeks, you never glance at those signs again, but the first-timer views them as life or death!
7. Who can I ask a question to?
There are some things you need to get from someone in the know. Even the most prominent signage doesn’t answer all your questions. A first-time guest is too scared to start randomly interrogating people. They must quickly identify someone who seems to be a designated question answerer.
8. Are they going to do anything weird?
Going to church for most visitors is like visiting a foreign country. They know Christians are different; they hope they’re not psycho! The culture is so different that I don’t know what will happen, and I’m terrified I’ll be put in an uncomfortable situation.
9. Am I going to have to sing or clap?
How many environments does the average American go to that they’re asked to sing out loud and clap along with? Exactly! It’s funny that we like to measure worship by crowd participation, but then we neglect to measure our evangelistic effectiveness by the lack of crowd participation. Just saying.
10. Is there any hope?
Finally, and most importantly, they secretly wonder if hope exists for them. They’re praying that second chances are real. They’re hoping that God really can fix broken hearts and homes.
Every church leader should be wrestling with how they are answering those questions.
At Oak Ridge, our passion is to design weekend services where the unchurched find real answers.
What questions would you add to my list?