I love visitors at our church. Thankfully we are in a season of seeing dozens of visitors each week. It excites me.
Through the years I’ve observed church visitors and how they go about discerning the right church for them. There isn’t a “system” for doing this…and I don’t think there should be…but I have developed some suggestions for people based on what I’ve observed.
With that in mind…
Here are 10 tips for visiting a church:
Check out the website – Most churches now have a website. It’s the first place people seem to go to when checking out our church. Look through it as your discerning whether or not a church fits your family’s needs. The pages that seem to get the most attention are the staff page, age-graded ministries and anything about what we believe or what to expect when you arrive. Pay close attention to the schedule of services or activities you plan to attend.
Plan your route – On a first visit, you’ll feel uncomfortable being late, so figure out ahead of time how long it will take you to get there. By the way, it’s more uncomfortable for you if you’re late than us, so come in anyway, but avoiding doing so will make for a better first visit.
Arrive early – Plan to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes earlier than the service starts. You’ll want to find the best seat. You may need to get your family situated in their respective areas. You may want to read some of the printed information made available before the service starts. You will be better acclimated to the room and more comfortable when the service begins.
Pre-register if an option – Lots of churches now allow you to register your children before arriving. It saves time and makes the check in process smoother once you arrive.
Don’t leave immediately – Some of the most dedicated volunteers and usually the staff are still hanging around. You’ll get a chance to interact on a deeper level and ask questions. Plus, you can learn a lot about the fellowship of a church by whether or not people linger.
Dig deeper – Hopefully the church is conscious of their first impression and trying to put their best foot forward for visitors, but this is not always true. Some great churches miss it with first time visitors. Give them a chance beyond that. Who knows? You may be there to help them improve that experience for others in the future.
Make the most of your visit – It can be uncomfortable, but if you really want to experience the church, attend a Sunday school class or Bible study if offered. Find out about discipleship opportunities if they happen elsewhere. Figure out how people get plugged in and serve. You’ll need these activities for any church to ever truly feel like home.
Ask questions – Don’t assume. Ask. Many times something you don’t understand has a valid reasoning behind it.
Consider where you can grow and serve best – Church should be selected based on more than whether you liked a worship service. That’s certainly part of it, but where can God use you and your family best? Where will you best grow?
Consider a second visit – Don’t mark a church off unless it were obvious why you’re doing so. Sometimes it takes several visits before you know if a church is right for you.
Those are my suggestions. Obviously, you should do all this in a spirit of prayer. What suggestions do you have when visiting a church?