10 Negative First Impressions of Worship Centers

In our Lawless Group consultations, we always enlist “secret shoppers” to visit churches and give us a report. In negative reports, here are some of “first impression” concerns they verbalize about a worship center they’ve visited.                                 

  1. It’s dull. There’s nothing about the worship center that just “grabs” you. Little about it makes the guest say, “This building looks exciting. I want to learn more.” 
  2. It’s dated. The pews are old. The colors were popular in the 1970s. The walls are dark. It feels like you’ve stepped back in time to worship.
  3. It’s empty. For example, the worship center was built for 500 when the church was larger, but the congregation now fits in only a portion of it. Congregational singing feels like singing a solo.
  4. It smells. It’s amazing how church members’ noses grow accustomed to odors that almost knock out a first-time guest.
  5. It’s dark. Sometimes that’s because the interior woodwork is naturally dark; at other times, it’s because the lighting is dull.
  6. It’s dirty. Coffee stains in the carpet seem to have been there a while. Old bulletins are lying around. The furniture could use a good dusting.
  7. It’s different. Our secret shoppers more often get this impression in younger churches with unique stages and platforms in front. “Different” doesn’t make them wrong, however; it just means that some guests don’t always see the worship center as “cool” as others see it.
  8. It’s cold (or hot. . .). Maybe it could warm up when the room is full, but it’s cold when the secret shoppers get there.
  9. It’s hard to get there. Getting to the building itself might be easy, but determining which door to enter and how to find the worship center once you’re in the building isn’t easy.
  10. It’s ugly. I know that’s a subjective assessment, but most of us have a general sense of what ugly is when we see it.

What other possible negative first impressions come to mind for you?


  • Linda Greenwood says:

    I agree with the smells. When we first joined our church 4 years ago, I felt the smells, probably from the cleaners used, were offensive and musty. Now they don’t bother me at all. Good point!!

  • Matt says:

    Great stuff. We are currently re-doing our worship space – it is a great space, it is conducive to worship – but the standard light pink paint and old green carpet/pews were…dated. Something else that comes out of our remodel – we are recovering some beautiful woodwork surrounding our baptistery. This was covered by our projector screen. Our technology covered up some of the beauty of the room and was distracting.

  • Mike Massey says:

    Of course there needs to be a warning of carefulness that we aren’t training people to be “consumers” when it comes to finding a church. Definitely a subset of American Christianity, as believers in other countries are just happy to have space to worship (when they aren’t in hiding).

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Agreed, Mike. Thanks.

  • Steve says:

    I served one church that smelled like bat dung. In fact, as you walked in the foyer where the bell tower was, it was not uncommon to see bats hanging from the belfry rope.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    That’s a new one to me, Steve.

  • Roger Schweikert says:

    Sermons that don’t mention Christ and music that is not related to the sermon and even reading announcements that may already be printed in the bulletin!

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