Top Ten Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Guests (Re-visited)

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By Thom S. Rainer

The research and the post got me in trouble five years ago.

So, why am I re-visiting this issue?

Over the past few weeks, I have been involved in micro consultations. We bring ten pastors together for one and one-half days of intensive training and practical planning. With four of these micros completed with forty pastors, I still hear how important this issue is.

We want people to visit our churches. We want them to return so they can have multiple opportunities to hear the gospel and connect with believers. But many do not return. Why? In a social media poll, I heard from over 1,000 persons sharing their experiences of being “one and done.” They visited a church one time but did not return. Five years ago, these were their top reasons. Not much has changed in their responses today.

  1. Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. Those who want to debate this issue are longer-term members in the church. They are split almost evenly on their preference. But, among first time guests, the response is an overwhelming 90 percent negative. The stand-and-greet time is for half your members and almost none of your guests.
  2. Unfriendly church members. This response was anticipated. But the surprise was the number of respondents who included non-genuine friendliness in their answers. In other words, the guests perceived some of the church members were faking it.
  3. Unsafe and unclean children’s area. This response generated the greatest emotional reactions. If your…

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