It’s hard to believe, but according to people who study these things, first-time guests to our church make up their minds whether they’re coming back or not in the first 10 minutes of their visit. I don’t know how true that is, but that’s what they say.
Think about it.
Before they hear the first note of music, before they hear the first word of a sermon or before anyone stands up and says “welcome” in the service, most first-time guests have already made a conscious or subconscious decision about whether they’re coming back.
Now, put that into perspective. What might be hanging in the balance in those 10 minutes is someone’s opportunity to embrace Jesus.
And the studies also say that what makes the biggest difference is — hospitality. That means a huge factor is people and then facility-related things.
Think about that. Often the barrier to Christ isn’t spiritual — it’s us. It’s from the way we park cars, to how we greet people, to the cleanliness of our facility. The factors that determine whether a guest returns are all within our control. The problem is… too many of us either don’t know or don’t care about what drives people away or keeps them coming back.
Does that mean there are no spiritual barriers to a person’s return to church or to Christ? Of course not. And we could get into a long discussion about whether God draws people to himself and the futility of human effort, but we won’t.
Is God in control? He most certainly is. God is in control. But you have a role. So, steward it well. I must constantly remind myself that every Sunday is someone’s first Sunday. And that number is usually around 10-15 who would self-identify as a guest. That’s a lot of people over 52 Sundays a year. And we want to make sure that we’re not the barrier to someone coming to Christ.
As we continue to develop a more secure environment, we are also evaluating our hospitality quotient (I just made that phrase up). We send a message to our guests with our strategy for hospitality. We can under-greet or over-greet. We do have a system in place, but to be honest, sometimes we find it difficult to carry out the strategy because we lack volunteers. So, as we rethink security — it is important to also reconsider what we are doing on the hospitality front. Yes, people want to be safe. But, people also want to belong.
We are taking a big step back to examine these issues. As we do that, what we’ll need most of all is some new and enthusiastic faces to train and set free to serve. You see, a sign can direct, but only a person can shepherd a guest. And since that is true, we won’t just be filling slots. No, we must have the right people in the right places. And this is more important than we realize. Why? Because the barrier to Christ isn’t always spiritual — it’s us!