We like what we know.

Whether it’s our favorite lunch spot or trusted vacation destination or a go-to pair of shoes, we’re fans of the familiar.

And familiar is okay, as long as we remember that one man’s familiar is another man’s uncharted territory.

Because when things get familiar, we tend to get sloppy. We turn inward to our own convenience rather than outward for the sake of our guests. We structure systems around our comfort rather than ease of use for someone who’s new.

That’s why I’d encourage you…every once in a while…to take another look. Arrive at your weekend worship experience with the heart of a pastor and the mind of a critic. Look for things that are incredibly basic to you, but might be incredibly confusing to a guest.

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Identifying signage: if someone is driving down the road past your church, do they know that you are a church? Is there signage to point them your way? You know that there’s a building behind those trees on the frontage road, but do they?

Greeters in the great outdoors: we tend to staff our volunteer teams from the inside out. We focus on the auditorium, the kids area, the lobby, etc. And when guests arrive, they tend to see backs…lots and lots of backs headed away from them and into the building. But what if you had a few friendly faces outside for the entire morning? What if you lowered someone’s defenses by maintaining an outward-focused posture?

Clearly marked entry points: if you have a traditional church building, you may have more entrances than you have people. What if you structured your guest parking in a way where every first timer parks in the same lot and enters the same door? Their worst nightmare is to walk in the wrong door and end up in the “forbidden hallway.” (and yes, nearly every church has one)

Lots of signs, complemented by lots of people: signage is important. You should have lots of it, at a viewable level, that clearly communicates the areas you want people to know about. But signs don’t replace people and conversations. If someone looks confused, a volunteer should be trained to react and respond appropriately and to get them where they need to go.

Blind spots and fear of the unknown: does your auditorium have a wooden door separating it from the lobby? (yes) What will you see when you open that door? You know the answer. But your guest doesn’t. Wooden doors should be paired up with yet more people, placed there as a security blanket to help guests feel more comfortable about what’s on the other side.

Confusing language from the stage, temperature of the auditorium, spell check on the screens, screaming babies in the back…: you name it, there’s something else that you’ve become all too familiar  and comfortable with. As a matter of fact, you’ve probably learned to tune it out or ignore it altogether. But your guests won’t. And those things could make or break whether or not they return. So this weekend, take another look. It might be an eye-opening experience.

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