Our family was once again out of town for Christmas, visiting our family. It’s been something we have done for the last 5 years.
In fact, we have not celebrate a Christmas Eve service in our own church I think in the past 7 years.
Our travels allow us to be the first time church visitor on a regular basis, and this year was no different.
Choosing a church to visit
This year, we asked a friend for a recommendation. She’s unchurched, but she was glad to help us find a Christmas Eve service. She asked one of her co-workers, “who was religious,” for a recommendation.
We eventually received a name of a church that had “rocking music.” It was approximately 15 minutes from my parent’s house.
To find the location and directions, we checked out the church’s website. Their church website was up to date, with service times and locations clearly indicated on the home page. We got a good feel for what we might experience in our visit.
Their website also connected with their Facebook page, and from photos on that page, we saw active engagement in community service.
The website helped us feel like this might be a good place for us to visit.
Our Sunday Experience
The church has two morning services and meets in a public high school. Their one evening service meets at a different campus.
We choose the first morning service. Their website mentioned that all three services (including one in the evening) would be nearly exactly the same.
It appears about 400-500 people were in attendance that morning, and I noted it was a racially diverse crowd.
The music was rocking (as noted). It was good, high quality, and covered four different genres for the multi-racial audience.
The music included traditional Christmas carols jazzed up in contemporary arrangements.
The sermon was simple yet profound, and easily accessible by believers and seekers alike. The pastor did a great job in explaining biblical terms when needed.
Overall, the experience of Sunday with this church has inspired me to return for a second visit, and bring a friend from this area who is looking for a church.
The church hospitality experience
This church has chosen to use parking attendants to help facilitate the rapid entry and parking of cars. I found this helpful as a first time visitor.
Exterior signage was simply signboards directing people towards children’s ministry and the church. Since they rent a high school, more permanent signage was not allowed.
The door greeters smiled and passed out the bulletins. They seemed genuinely excited to have been part of their church. Greeters wore lanyards with church badges on them. In a church of this size, this helps designate “official people” approachable for questions if needed.
The church had placed ushers at major intersections in the auditorium to help guide people to seating and address any questions as needed. Again, most wore a lanyard with a church badge making them easy to identify.
The church uses a connection card system for visitor contact information, and the pastor was clear about how to fill it out and take it to the welcome center tent for a free book. He introduced the contact card with:
If this is your first time here, or first time in a long time. . . ..
The connection card wasn’t obligatory for us to fill out. When I turned it in later, the teaching pastor was at that tent making small talk with people.
When it came time for Scripture reading, ushers were called upon to give out Bibles to people who didn’t have one with them. While that was going on, the pastor mentioned that if you don’t have one at home, consider that Bible a gift from the church and you are free to take it home.
The church made prayer teams available in the space up front. I appreciated how they were introduced:
All of us carry some huge burdens at time and we’d like someone to pray for us. Even if this is your first time here, our teams are here to pray with you if you wish. If you want some confidential prayer, simply come up here and seek out a team.
The keyword that caught my attention was “confidential.” That shows tremendous sensitivity for church visitors.
What might I improve?
For the most part, I think this church has a great welcome experience.
While it is true that no one engaged us in conversation, we didn’t expect it in a church of this size. The size of the crowd was large enough that we didn’t feel we stuck out at visitors.
Yet the church was clear about simple ways we could engage in small talk if we wanted to.
My only suggestion for this church would be a small banner hanging on the tent that was welcome center to clearly designate that tent as the welcome center.