Chris’ Ten New Year’s Wishes for Area Churches

1. Be Friendlier and More Welcoming
Anchorage church visitors are not warmly greeted as a rule. The official “Meet n’ Greet” is a poor excuse for extending true Christian hospitality. True hospitality means extending oneself. Many churches ask visitors to identify themselves, but in only one in 2008 was I introduced by a member who extended themself.

2. Clean Up Your Church Website
What, you don’t have one? Then you’ve already lost visibility due to our heavily Web-dependent world. If you have one, clean it up so the essential information about your church is accurate and on the first screen page. First and foremost, your service times should be prominently posted.

3. Pick and Train Greeters Carefully
Greeters should be chosen carefully. Many churches depend on volunteer greeters who have no idea how to make visitors and members feel welcome. Trainers and training programs are available to help you.

4. Involve Parishioners More in Services
The average church involves parishioners in very few ways during their services. Involve them! Train them how to present. Teach them how to effectively read and project scripture. Have them present “lay views” of the church and it’s activities.

5. Balance Church Suppers with Community Food Help
Church suppers are an ideal way to fellowship. Figure out ways to balance this with community outreach. It’s easy to share a meal with friends. It’s harder to serve a meal and share your love of God with someone less fortunate.

6. Pastors, Emphasize Christmas & Easter All Year
Strong churches celebrate the themes of Christmas and Easter year round. Then why do many focus on them two times a year to the detriment of other critical church focus areas? And why not try to present your sermons and homilies without notes? It’s so much easier being talked with as a friend instead of being preached at from a written text. I can read too. What does that prove?

7. Offer Explanations for Visitors
Assume visitors know nothing about your services and practices. Insert visitor-friendly notations in your bulletin, e.g. The Lord’s Prayer (Debts and Debtors), gives visitors a clue what version of the prayer is used. At offering time, graciously say, “Our visitors should not feel under any obligation to give at this time. This is our normal practice here.” Be clear in your bulletin what your church follows with regard to Communion/Eucharistic practices, i.e. open, closed, etc.

8. Don’t Make Your Church a Coffeehouse
Coffee is helpful to visitors and members alike. It’s refreshing and a good meeting lubricant. However, having an espresso bar and allowing people to come and go with their coffee during the services lessens the spiritual atmosphere in any meeting, and distracts other worshipers.

9. Rely less on PowerPoints
PowerPoint is grossly overused for church-related advertising before services, for song words of endless and forgettable praise songs, and for sermon notes (“fill in all the blanks in your bulletin”) for that unmemorable 3-part sermon. Rather, put attendees back in touch with their Bibles and songbooks.

10. Use Music as Spiritual Glue, not Entertainment
Many churches place a heavy emphasis on music as entertainment, with a snappy band, lots of singers and “rocky” music. I see no correlation with this music and any increase in spirituality. I attribute part of this to the bored looks shown by paid musicians, and syrupy lyrics often at odds with holy writ. Less is more, and quality music with a message is preferred.

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