Part of being missional is making sure that our churches—everything about them—is accomplishing our mission. Our mission, of course, is to make disciples, something we pursue in the lives of both believers and nonbelievers. As you consider your mission, you may want to consider how visitors view your church. This is easier said than done.
Things become so familiar to us that we hardly notice them anymore. Things change slowly, and we become insensitive to the gradual differences that accumulate over time. Herein is the challenge of trying to look at your church from a visitors point of view. It’s hard to notice your church as it really is. Here are five suggestions that might help to regain a look at your church from the visitor’s point of view.
- Visit another church, and take notes of what stands out to you. If you have the opportunity—and you probably should, at least once a year—visit another church. In this unfamiliar setting, take note of everything that stands out to you. The curb appeal. The church sign. That weird-looking steeple. The feel of the doorknob. The way the door grunts when you try to pull it open. The way you almost tripped because you didn’t notice the step in the foyer. The pleasant smell when you step inside. The way that the sound system sounds. Notice these things, then go back to your own church and pay special attention to these factors back on your home turf.
- Take time to look at everything. One of the reasons that we don’t look at things from a visitor’s point of view is because we don’t take the time to do so. Set aside some time to just look at your church, to think about the order of service, to analyze why you’re doing certain things, and to consider how a newcomer might see things, think about things, and consider your practices.
- Ask people. One obvious way to gain different viewpoints is to ask different people. You can start with your own leadership team, then ask church members, and perhaps even visitors themselves. They have probably noticed things you haven’t, and thought about issues that may never have crossed your mind. As a leader, you must listen to your people. You’ll likely learn a lot.
- Go slowly. Slowing our pace gives us more time for reflection. Instead of hurrying through your service preparations, take a contemplative moment or two to think about things differently. Or, when you get out of your car to head into your office, walk slowly and look at the grounds, the building, the entryway, the parking lot. These are things that visitors will absorb much quicker than you normally do. Simply try slowing down to take in some things from a visitors point of view.
- Be alert when you come back from a vacation. Have you ever experienced that feeling when you walk into your home after being gone for a long time? Sure, everything is still familiar, but there’s a certain newness to it all. You notice the smell. You notice the feel, the space, the furniture. This is the same kind of experience that you may have when you arrive at your church after being away on vacation, or at a conference, or speaking somewhere. Pay attention to the things that strike your attention, because they may be the things that visitors notice, too.
- Watch a video of your service. Have you ever actually watched a video recording of your church service? It can be an interesting experience. If you’re used to being on the delivery end of things, the service can look a lot different from the viewer’s side. Watching a video of your service will probably bring a lot of things to mind that need to be changed. Try it, and write out a list of what you notice.