Occasionally outsiders may visit your church on a Sunday morning.
How often this happens depends on where your church is located and whether or not you advertise your church.
In a future post I will share with you preventative steps that will ensure you never get newbies darkening the doors of your church again, but for now, let’s get stuck in.
In the unfortunate event you have new people gatecrashing your Church service, here’s what you can do to make sure they never return.
(On the flip side, check out How to make church visitors feel welcome if you’d like them to come back on week 2)
1. Confuse the Newbies
You never make a second first impression. Same for people, same for churches.
When visitors enter your church it should be unclear where they should go.
This point applies both to large churches and small ones, both cars and pedestrians. First-time visitors can become easily frustrated when it’s unclear where they should go.
When visitors come to your church, do they know what entrance they should use?
A well-marked entrance takes some of the pressure off of visitors who might be too nervous to ask for help, so make sure you hide the signs.
2. Make Sure Everyone Knows They Are New
A great idea our church leadership came up with to embarrass visitors is to ask people to raise their hands if it’s their first time.
Better yet, make them stand up mid-service and ask them to introduce themselves. This will make them feel really awkward, especially the introverts. That’ll show them.
This technique alone will most likely guarantee they never come back.
Why not have awkward greeting times? The visitor will feel like they’re at school all over again.
3. Ask Questions like, “Are you new?” or “Is this your first Sunday?”
If you find yourself in a situation where talking to someone is unavoidable, instead of greeting people by saying,
“Hi! I don’t believe I’ve met you yet. My name is ________. Are you new?”
This has two major advantages…
a) If they are in fact new it puts the spotlight on them. You need to make sure they feel like they’re sticking out like a sore thumb. You may not think this has much of an impact but I assure you, after being asked if you are new 20 times in a row, it will have the desired affect.
b) Secondly, if that person turn out not to be new and answers you by saying they’ve been in the church a year, things can still get rather awkward so either way it’s a win-win.
4. Don’t have Greeters, But If You Do Definitely Don’t Train Them
A person decides within the first 3 to 8 minutes whether or not they will return.
First impressions are not just important; they are crucial. Especially when it comes to first-time visitors. So let’s make sure we get this part right.
Ideally, you want nobody at the door at all (remember the 1st point about confusion?)
If you do have a greeting team make sure the team is made up of people who have received no training.
Definitely don’t be selective in who makes the greeting team and definitely don’t read ‘5 Common-Sense Church Greeting Tips‘.
Genuine smiles, eye contact, a handshake and a friendly “Hello!” really do not help if you never want to see this person again.
And whatever you do, make you sure you DO NOT give them a church welcome pack.
5. Use Insider Language to Make Newcomers Feel Alienated
Get as many references to sanctification, the blood, justification, atonement, propitiation, redemption and any other Christian jargon you can think of and say is often as possible and be sure to avoid giving any explanation.
Good times to use this insider language would be within the worship songs, sermon and announcements.
This will ensure the church newbies feel like they’ve just landed into a foreign country and are lost.
Another surefire way to exclude newcomers from the conversation is to announce that the youth group is meeting at “Jason’s house”, and to see “Billy” for directions and “Kelly” is in charge of refreshments.
Good luck to the young person visiting that day and hoping to break into the clique. He has no idea who Billy is, how to get to Jason’s house or what’s going on if he dares to attend!
(This is also good for bulletin handouts.)
6. Make Visitors Uneasy About Leaving Their Children With You
Families with young children will be anxious about leaving their kids with strangers. We can play on this.
The number one reason parents decide to sick with a church based on their children’s program.
In order to ensure the parents are anxious, don’t introduce yourself, don’t invite one of the parents to visit and definitely don’t tell them where you’re taking their kids or how to contact you in an emergency.
7. Treat Visitors Like Second Class Citizens
If you’ve read this far then this principle should be well ingrained in you already.
The overriding concept here is to make newbies feel uncomfortable, awkward and unwelcomed in your church. This also means following up first time church guests is strictly forbidden.
Here’s a couple more things you can do:
- Let visitors have their parking spaces as far away from the entrance as possible and again, make sure there’s no people or signs to help direct them.
- Have established members ask visitors to move if they have the audacity to sit in their seat.
Follow these steps and I promise you those outsiders will never darken your church doorway again, ever.
Push past your attendance barriers
If you want help to get from where you are to where you want to be, I have some deeper practical help.
How To Solve The Church Attendance Puzzle is a completely FREE webinar that’s going to show church leaders how to break through attendance barriers that limits growth and take their churches to the next level.
In this webinar hosted by Ben Crawshaw you’ll learn:
1. The biggest mistake churches make that costs them attendance (You’ll be surprised… it’s not what you think!)
2. How to get more people at your services (and keep them coming back)
3. The best way to get this Sunday’s guests to return next week
Register here. (only 200 spots available!)
Whether your church is 50, 150 or 250 people, I know this live event is really going to help you get your church unstuck.
Have you ever been made to feel unwelcome in a new church?
What could they have done to make you feel more comfortable?
Scroll down and share your story in the comments.
5 thoughts on “7 Crazy Ways To Make Visitors Feel Unwelcome In Your Church”
Make families with special needs children feel unwelcome. Try to make a child with Asperger’s conform. That’ll do it real quick.
That’s a great point Alexandra, we definitely need to take the needs of families with special needs into account for sure. I think training for children’s workers and welcome teams on the requirements of special needs children is essential to raise awareness. Thanks for sharing.
I have been in a big church for 2.5 yrs now. I help out in children’s ministry, do a bible study. Every sunday I am greeted with a smile and a grand hand shake
but not one of the 6 pastors serving, know my name or inquired further of who or what I am? Go figure?!
Anyways I decided I am here for Christ and I live for him and serve him. 🙂
I’m struggling to find a church home in San Diego. I’m s single woman and I either feel absolutely conspicuous or totally invisible. Today I got squeezed out of the seat I was in. I never felt more out of place and unwelcome. Couldn’t wait to get out.
Anna I’m so sorry for your experience – that’s not how church should be. People easily forget what it’s like to be the new person and unfortunately your experience is all too common… Please don’t give up, try a second week or try another church until you find ‘home’. Let me know how you get on!
Note to all pastors and church leaders: let this serve as a poignant reminder to make sure we set the table for guests and are ready to give them a great big warm welcome when they come.