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7 Phrases That Make Church Visitors Groan

  • Posted on: 17 August 2016
  • By: Keith Reed

Church visitors should be treated like gold. But sadly, they sometimes feel excluded by the very people who are trying to make them feel included. How does this happen?

I believe it’s mostly due to communication errors. Most people simply don’t realize that what they’re saying is inappropriate or even offensive. They likely have good intentions, but they fail to think about how their comments might make others feel (a friend of mine helps his church staff avoid this error by reminding them to “think like a visitor”).

Like it or not, church members will continue to unknowingly offend visitors. No leader can (or should) control what others say to a visitor, but what leaders can do is make better word choices when they get the chance to speak in front of the congregation. What is said by the person holding the microphone will not only put visitors at ease, it will also model the type of language that others in the church will hopefully adopt. 

Here are seven phrases that you should think twice about before using.

1. "If you're visiting with us today, we're so glad that you're here."

A classic line that worship leaders and emcees often use as a greeting to welcome guests. On the surface, there’s nothing “wrong” with this statement. But this statement carries subtle messages that aren’t helpful. 

    • This identifies visitors as a separate group which might make them feel like the one person at the dinner table who isn’t a blood relative. Most visitors don’t want extra attention; they’d rather be treated like everyone else. 
    • Unless there's an added message or course of action, these words of “gladness” are just words. Depending on how visitors experience the rest of the worship gathering (does anyone introduce themselves to them?), this statement might later be interpreted as empty words and reinforce a presupposition that a visitor may have of the church or of the Christian faith.  

I suggest that you use inclusive language when you address visitors. You can speak to them directly, but make the transition from “them” to “us.” Here’s an example: “Thanks for being here today. Whether you’re a newcomer or have been part of our church family for decades, we’re thankful that we can worship God in this place together.”  

2. "Make sure to invite your non-Christian friends.”

Simple Prayer

  • Posted on: 3 August 2016
  • By: Keith Reed

Do your silent prayers sometimes get ambushed by your overloaded brain? For instance, as you pray for your friend, you think of his smile and it reminds you of how happy he looks when his mouth of full of his favourite candy. The image makes you think of the sweet taste of sugar and suddenly your mouth is watering and you begin to think about what you should have for dinner. Then you remember that you’re not meal planning, but praying! You’re only four seconds removed from an earnest prayer, but now you feel frustrated—maybe even embarrassed—that you can’t stay focused while you talk with God. 

It happens to me too. 

I’ve heard (and tried) different ways to keep prayer distractions at a minimum. You can pray out loud or write down your requests instead of composing them in your head. You can make a note of everything that comes to your mind and then take care of these things at a later time. These strategies work just fine, but they don’t always relieve me from the negative feelings that discourage me when I’m interrupted by the endless sea of my thoughts. Having my prayers intercepted by a distraction can make me feel like I’m failing or that my faith is too weak because I can’t stay focused. I want to give up because of the gap between what I’m thinking about and what I ought to be thinking about. 

John Ortberg suggests that this gap can be removed through a practice called simple prayer. In simple prayer, I pray about what’s really on my mind, not what I wish was on my mind. Ortberg's motive for praying this way is based on the conviction that nothing kills prayer faster than pretending to be more noble than we really are. 

The answer then, is presenting ourselves to God as we truly are and embracing the distractions as they enter our minds. This means that instead of responding to my errant thoughts with regret, I can attend to them with a prayer. Every person deals with their share of distractions. Instead of wishing them away, we’d be wise to present them to God. 

Choosing to pray in this responsive way will put you in good company. Consider these words from a number of spiritual guides:  

Your Website's Impact on Potential Visitors

  • Posted on: 19 July 2016
  • By: Keith Reed

I’ve listened to sports talk radio since before I was a teenager. Over the years, I’ve heard hundreds of callers identify themselves with a simple introduction: first-time caller, long-time listener (or the popular short-hand: “first-time, long-time”). Some listeners wait a decade before they decide to call. But when they finally reach for their phone, they already know what to do. They can recite the station’s phone number by heart because it’s been burned into their memory after hearing it countless times before. Long-time listeners become first-time callers because they feel called to take action. And taking action is really easy to do. 

Have you ever considered what people need to become first-time visitors in your church?

Without a doubt, they need a reason to participate (is it any wonder that the vast majority of visitors choose to attend because someone invited them?). But even a person who is highly motivated to visit still needs basic information in order to meet your congregation.

Like the location of where your church meets.

The Google era has diminished the importance of phone number jingles, but the importance of basic information has not changed. Various reports suggest that 90% of potential visitors will browse your church’s website before they decide to attend your worship service. Thom Rainer calls a church’s website their most overlooked outreach tool! If a person can’t find the time and location of your service within a few seconds of browsing your website, you can almost guarantee that you’ve lost a first-time visitor.

Church websites have been an easy target for criticism for as long as the Internet has been alive (and for good reason). The good news is that it doesn’t take much work on your website to help visitors find what they’re looking for. Here are a few suggestions on what to make prominent: