I’ve previously written about findings of “church secret shoppers” we’ve used in church consulting. One of those findings is that many churches aren’t very friendly to guests. Here are some of the reasons that’s the case:
- Caveat: Churches are friendly, but only to people they already know. That’s why churches almost always assert how friendly they are, and guests often talk of how friendly they aren’t.
- No one’s ever evaluated them. I’ve never talked to a church who told me how unfriendly they are. On the other hand, they’ve never really tested that conclusion by seeking input from guests—particularly, the guests who never return.
- Congregations don’t even know each other. The reality is that most members have a small circle of friends in the church, and they don’t know many people beyond that circle. If they aren’t really in relationship with other church members, it’s not surprising that they don’t reach out to guests.
- They leave the “friendliness” responsibility to others. After all, they think, the extroverts and the talkers are wired for that task. When the greeters are doing their job, other members shouldn’t have to worry about it.
- They haven’t fostered life-on-life Christianity. Honestly, I’m not convinced that many believers understand what Christian hospitality and friendship are. Our relationships are generally surface-level, Sunday-to-Sunday “friendships.” It’s little wonder we’re not that friendly to people we don’t even know.
- Congregations treat church as if it’s all about them. They worship only where they like the style. They church shop any time their needs aren’t met. They protect their positions and their turf, and they use language like “my church.” Self-centeredness seldom fosters friendliness.
- They’ve built their “friendly moment” into the worship service. Thom Rainer has shown some of the problems with this approach, but many churches still have a forced “stand and greet” time during the service. When you know that time’s coming, you don’t need to reach out to anyone before the service.
- They focus on their primary friends since they see them only once a week. This issue goes back to #5 in this list. When you spend little intentional time with other believers outside of church, you give most of your attention to your friends when you do gather,
- Their primary leader isn’t perceived as friendly, either. The longer a pastor is the leader, the more likely it is the church will adopt his personality. A perceived unfriendly pastor will produce an unfriendly church.
- They don’t have many guests anyway, so they have little practice. Thus, the process comes full circle. An unfriendly church sees few guests return, and the congregation eventually becomes desensitized to inviting guests or greeting them when they come.
What reasons would you add? And, if you want to read some friendly experiences of secret shoppers, check out this post.