Pam and I visit a lot of churches. Many are friendly, but some are not. I’ll never forget, for example, the person who said to Pam after a service where I had preached, “Well, if I’d known you were the preacher’s wife, I’d have said something to you.” In essence, she was saying, “If I knew you were important, I’d have gone out of my way to greet you.”
On the other hand, I don’t know a church that thinks they’re unfriendly. If you want to find out if your church really is friendly, try these strategies:
- Enlist an unchurched secret shopper. Find an unchurched person, and ask him or her to visit your church and give you a report. If the secret shopper knows little about church in general, it will be interesting to see how your church responds to somebody who will probably appear a bit confused and out of place.
- Enlist a believer as a secret shopper. Take this step to compare what happens when someone who knows how churches usually operate (and thus likely won’t be as awkward as the unchurched shopper) visits your church.
- Check with all guests who attended your church in the previous three months. Even if they didn’t return—or perhaps because they didn’t return—ask them if they remember your church as being friendly. If they remember your church as being unfriendly, you need to know that; even if they don’t remember anything about your congregation, that tells you something, too.
- Ask guest speakers and their spouses who visited your church in the last year. Give them complete freedom to speak truth to you, and see what they say.
- Ask your newest church members if they found your church to be friendly when they first attended. You might find that some folks joined your church for some reason other than your friendliness. It happens – people tolerate a lack of friendliness because they love the music, the preaching, the location, etc.
- Ask your staff’s spouses. Again, invite their complete honesty. I know church staff members whose spouses have never felt connected to their local body, and they’re all quite lonely.
- Talk to someone who has been attending church for some time, but who has not yet made any official commitment to get involved. Sometimes these folks come because they love the worship, but no relational connection has led them to get more involved. They may see the church as “not unfriendly, but not really friendly, either.”
Of course, you might ask all these questions and learn that your church really is friendly! The bottom line is this: you won’t know how friendly your church really is until you ask folks.