20 Factors That Influence a Visitor’s Experience

By Jim LaDoux
Director of Coaching & Coaching School

We’re mostly blind to the real experience visitors have when they show up at church. We don’t see what they see, and we don’t hear what they hear. That’s why it’s good to step outside of our own perceptions and consider a set of questions that will help us see with a new lens…

1. Your Church Website—Is it engaging, informative for visitors, and does it have stories and pictures indicating vitality in your congregation?

2. Signage—Is it helpful and easy to read?

3. Congregational publications (paper or digital)—Do they indicate why you do what you do? Do they look professional or slapped-together?

4. Greeters/Ushers—Do they smile, introduce themselves, offer a genuine welcome, look for ways to serve, and naturally invite them to participate and return?

5. Word of Mouth—What are church members (or other congregations) saying about your congregation? Do you know your reputation in the community, and do you like that reputation?

6. Insider/Outsider Factors—Do you know the denominational background of your visitors? Are you cognizant of “insider” language and intentional about explaining foreign terms? Do you regularly remind leaders to counteract assumptions of what people really know or understand?

7. Hidden Bias—Are you aware of how average people in our culture perceive church and Christians in general? Can you name their fears, assumptions, and biases?

8. Food & Beverage—How fresh are the refreshments you serve, and are they of high quality?

9. Congregational Friendliness—How friendly are your “regulars” with new people? Have they been regularly reminded to say hello and introduce themselves? Have you created easy ways for new people to make an initial connection with regulars? And do guests receive a card or gift following their visit?

10. Listening Skills—Do visitors felt listened-to when engaged by members?

11. Intangibles—What do your visitors think about the person who invited them? Do they feel respect and curiosity and trust for the inviter?

12. Impressions of Leadership—What do visitors think about the highest-profile person (typically the pastor) they experience during their visit? Is he/she relaxed, authentic, relatable, and authoritative? Is the sermon engaging, relevant, and memorable?

13. First-Person Impressions—Your church receptionist is a key ambassador for your church—is he/she energetic, upbeat, helpful, and kind?

14. Language—How do you refer to visitors during your worship service? Call them “guests,” not visitors.

15. Personal Invitations—Do you have something low-key and appealing to invite your guests to (such as a morning tea/lunch/dinner hosted by a member of your congregation)?

16. The Entry-Attitude of the Visitor—Are you aware of the motivation behind your guest visiting? What do your visitors believe and value?

17. Your Church Name—People may be either attracted by or turned off by your church “brand name.” Is your name stuffy-sounding or community-oriented and approachable?

18. Congregational Advertising—In what ways are you making yourself known to people in your surrounding area?

19. Your Facility—How clean, orderly, and generally attractive is your facility?

20. Inclusivity—Do your leaders and congregation members use inclusive language that visitors would understand?

Jim LaDoux is the longtime Director of Coaching & Coaching School for Vibrant Faith. Jim lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife—he has two adult sons. He’s been a coach since 1992, and has a Master of Management Arts and is a certified PCC (Professional Certified Coach).

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