Monthly Archives: October 2011

Is Your Church Making Guests Feel Unwelcome?

An article by David Francis, Director of Sunday School, LifeWay Christian Resources, caught my eye recently. In ‘Ways to make guests feel unwelcome’, Francis humorously outlines nine ways churches can drive guests away, discouraging further visits. As a frequent guest of Anchorage area churches, I’ve seen them all. I’ve added my own commentary to his bullet points.

*Make parking for first-time guests inconvenient. It’s amazing how many churches do not provide up-close parking for first-time visitors, leaving them to fend for themselves in crowded parking lots. Often you’ll find empty handicapped parking, clergy parking, but no first-time visitor parking. This practice loudly shouts, “visitors not expected or desired”.

*Get grouchy greeters. Or better yet, unsmiling, close-mouthed greeters, or even better, have greeters carrying on uninterruptable conversations with other greeters or members when guests enter.

*Forego a welcome center. Few churches have effective welcome centers. If they do, often they’re ineffective ones. One church I visited had one, unstaffed, with clipboards to register oneself.

*Treat guests like a doctor’s office treats new patients. This can be done at the welcome center, with clipboards and long forms to complete, or even better, be confronted at your seat by someone demanding you complete the form there.

*Don’t escort guests to their classrooms. Or to available seats in the sanctuary. This alone goes far to discourage further visits.

*Make finding a seat really hard. Make sure all the good seats in the rear half of the church are filled or taken, marked by coats, purses, hymnals or Bibles. It’s far better to make the guest go up front where everyone can examine them in detail. Some churches have chosen to position their entry so guests (and members) enter from the front to their seats, creating a continual stream of interruptions before and during the service.

*Have guests stand up while everyone else sits, or sit while everyone else stands. That’s right, they’re very vulnerable so it makes them warm to your church instantly, especially when asked to identify themselves to the entire congregation. It’s even better when they are prompted for the reason they chose to come to your congregation this day.

*Randomly call on people to read or pray. The guest, of course, is waiting with dread to see if they’ll be next.

*Don’t wear name tags. This is a 100% guarantee guests will not be properly recognized, nor know anyone’s name as a consequence of their visit.

Churches do not see themselves as others see them. I strongly urge churches to regularly, (I suggest weekly), send several members to visit other community churches with a practiced eye for guest-friendly or unfriendly behavior. This can be brought back for discussion with the worship committee or similar. Churches I enjoy visiting employ a wide variety of guest-friendly practices, going far beyond the ones mentioned here. Church attendance should be a happy occasion for any guest, and getting under-the-hood of how to be hospitable is a Biblical mandate and Christian principle.

To read David Francis’ article in full click here.

Northside SDA – The Sermon Was Worth the Visit


On May 14, Northside Seventh Day Adventist Church greeted me, treated me to hymns of the church, gave all of us (and the kids) a children’s story, and a well-delivered, Bible-based sermon. Although there were some rocky points in the service, overall this multi-cultural church showed itself well.

Meeting on Saturday, the traditional Jewish Sabbath, they offer well-grounded, conservative services which satisfy most of my criteria.

Looking for New Dimensions?

Northside Seventh Day Adventist is a small church, located across from the Delaney Parkstrip on 10th, and comprised of what I guess to be a couple of hundred worshipers. Meeting on Saturday mornings, they offer Sabbath School at 9:30 a.m. and a Worship Service at 10:45 a.m. The worship service began with a 15 minute song service led by two women with pleasant voices. The women led the congregation in singing three solid Christian hymns, to the tune of a well-played piano.

Usually, I visit Sunday churches, but have occasionally visited churches that meet on Saturday. These include Seventh Day Baptist Churches, Seventh Day Church of God congregations and others. All of them believe there is no Biblical authority given for changing the scripture-ordained worship day from the Sabbath, the 7th Day, to Sunday, the first day. In my visits, I’ve not been as concerned about what day a church worships as to whether or not they can satisfy my criteria (listed in the right column).


Entering this modest but comfortable church at 10:45 a.m., I was greeted by a sole woman in the lobby. The day was warm, and the church was very warm inside but all of the doors and windows were closed. It lent an unwelcome air to my visit. Sensing I may have entered at an awkward time, I asked if I was too late for a service, as it had the feeling of being closed for business, and was told the service was just starting.

This church’s platform participants entered, walking down the aisle from the rear, to music. Very few Anchorage churches, with the exception of Catholic and Methodist churches, do this. Usually they start with the platform participants up front or on the platform, or entering quickly from the sides. To me it’s a bit formal. We were welcomed by their presiding elder, and asked to greet each other. At the close of the singing, we were told to sit by an Elder, who then quickly said to stand if we wanted, and then continued to ask us all to stand. Next he said to greet or hug someone. This was an extremely awkward moment. I was greeted with the words “Happy Sabbath” by several individuals around me. It was a confusing moment. As is usual with most churches, I observed that members warmly greet each other but tend to avoid seeking out strangers. This was my experience here as well.

Children’s Time

When the time for the children’s story arrived, members sent their little children out in the aisles for people to give them money to carry to the front of the church. I’ve only seen this in one other church, also an SDA church. A curious custom. However, many children gathered on the platform for the children’s story.


This is a kneeling church. Most Protestant churches do not kneel, but here they do. It felt right to kneel. Prayer is not necessarily posture, but when one humbles themself before their Lord and Master, it seems appropriate to kneel. This has been man’s lot since the beginning of time.

Great Sermon

The speaker this day was a Kurt Johnson, Voice of Prophecy Bible School Director. The Voice of Prophecy, according to Wikipedia, is a long-running radio broadcast started in Los Angeles in 1929 by H.M.S. Richards, Sr. His sermon title was “The Prayer That Jesus Did Not Pray”, an intriguing title to say the least. Johnson proceeded to give one of the most interesting, Bible-based sermons, I’ve ever heard. I wish I could share it with you, but this church, unlike most churches, maintains an archive of only about 4 months worth of sermons and has taken it down. Another resource on prayer by Kurt Johnson is located here. This sermon made my visit extremely worthwhile.

Talking Lady Disruption

During the sermon, I had a difficult time concentrating due to the audible talking/whispering of several women behind me. Finally in desperation I turned around and told them I could not hear the sermon because of their talking. They said they were sorry and stopped talking. Although it was an exasperating moment for me, I still feel badly about having to turn around. This does not often happen in my church visits, but is certainly a distraction for guests and members.

As I left, no one spoke with me, as is typical of most of my church visits. Those few churches who bid a warm “goodbye”, and “come again”, stand out brightly in my mind. If you’re interested in the typical sermons at this church, you can visit their website here.