How to Grow your Church (and why I joined mine)

How to Grow your Church (and why I joined mine)

Breeze Church Management

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My family and I recently moved to a neighboring town and as a result, needed to begin the undesirable process of church shopping.


WhileI was not necessarily excited by the prospect of awkward greetings and starting over with social connections, I was looking forward to seeing how different churches handled meeting "the new family" and if there might be any unexpected surprises that would draw our familytowards a certain church. Thereare dozens of churches within just a few miles of us and so I figured it would be a great opportunity to compare how different churches operate.

At the recommendation of a friend, for our very first visit we tried out a church just down the road.

And we never looked anywhere else.

On the drive home that Sunday we knew we had found what we were looking for and we've been attending this same church ever since.

So what was it about that Sunday morning that moved us from looking at this church as a product to be selected to calling it our church home?  And more importantly, how is this church making this a repeatable process that can be replicated by others, ultimately allowing more people to experience Christ's love?

I believe there are two ideas this church utilized that can help explain the experience we had that Sunday morning and, if embraced, can help any church radically improve their first time guest experience and, over time, help those visitors deeply integrate into the church.  I originally heard this idea from Jeff Manion, a pastor, writer, and speaker whom I deeply respect.  I've seen time and time again how these principles play out in churches.

The two ideas are impression and connection.


1. Impression

Impression represents the experience a first time visitor has when they visit your church.

If your church were a cereal, impression would be the cereal box.  And while you might have the best tasting cereal in town, if the box looks like it was designed in Microsoft Paint, shoppers will pick another box every time.


In other words, you might have life changing small groups, people who love to serve and volunteer, and the most hardworking staff on the planet but if people who step into your church feel like they just went through a time warp to the 1980s, they'll likely never stick around long enough to experience those amazing small groups and volunteer opportunities.

Below is a checklist of what I believe to be the most critical areas when it comes to impression:

☑ Was there room in the parking lot?

☑ Did someone greet me at the door?  Were they friendly?

☑ Was the building clean and organized?

☑ Was the decor up-to-date or did it feel like the church is stuck in the past?

☑ Is it clear where children should go?

☑ When checking in children for the first time, is it smooth or does it communicate that the church doesn't get visitors (i.e. volunteers aren't quite sure how to handle it when someone "isn't in the system")

☑ Is it clear how a parent will be notified if a classroom needs to call a child's parent mid-service?

☑ Does space feel filled enough to have energy yet empty enough to easily find an open seat?

☑ When giving announcements, does the speaker use language that everyone can understand?  Do they take the time to recap initiatives the church is involved with or do they just mention the names of those initiatives, expecting attenders to know what is going on?

☑ Does the band produce high quality music that is easy to sing along to?

☑ Does the pastor introduce themselves or do they assume everyone knows who they are?

☑ When speaking, does the pastor specifically welcome guests?

☑ Are traditions/routines explained in a way that makes it easy for guests to know how to interact with or understand them (i.e. how we take communion, what baptism represents, when children should be dismissed to their classrooms, etc) or are new attenders spending significant mental energy attempting to figure out what "normal" is for your service?

☑ When picking up children, is there a security process in place that helps a parent know that unauthorized people could not pick up their child?

☑ Does the visitor receive any sort of follow up email, letter, call, or visit?

While nearly all church leaders would agree that these items are important, the longer someone is a part of a church, the less aware they are of poor impressions.  The elder who has been a part of the church for 20 years will likely not even notice when the pastor fails to introduce himself whereas the first time visitor a few chairs over will be left wondering "is this their pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, or someone else and what is their name?"

[tweetthis]The longer someone is a part of a church, the less aware they are of poor impressions.[/tweetthis]

If you're wondering how your church is doing at impression, ask someone who has just recently started attending your church.  Even the most seasoned leaders can become blind over time.  Nothing beats the feedback from someone seeing your church through fresh eyes.

As I walked into this church my first Sunday, nearly all the above checkboxes were met.  Parking was great, I was greeted at the door, someone helped show our family how to check in our children, the band was excellent, the space felt clean and inviting, there was popcorn after the service (much to my kids' delight) and I received an email a couple days later thanking me for being there.

2. Connection

Walking towards the door on that first Sunday, my wife and I swung by the welcome table to ask about small groups.  (Okay, my wife did - I was busy trying to harness the energy of our three small children.)  She was warmly greeted, received some great information, and a few days later I received an email inviting us to join a new small group with other couples in our same phase of life.

While not as obvious to a first time attender, the power of a connection like this is just as important as a welcoming environment.  A strong impression is great for getting people to come back week after week but the connection is what brings people back year after year.

[tweetthis]Impression gets people to come back week after week but connection is what brings people back year after year.[/tweetthis]

While small groups are a great way to establish these connections, by no means are they the only mechanism.  Below is a list of different ways churches can help people connect.  Think of these as "on ramps" helping people move from the streets of impression to the highways of connection.


An "on ramp" should be as easy to drive onto as possible.

☑ Is it easy to join a small group?  If someone expresses interested, how long does it take for them to be followed up with?  Are there processes in place to prevent someone from falling through the cracks?

☑ Is it clear how to volunteer in the nursery, kids program, with middle school students, or in the high school youth group?  Are volunteers given a structure where they can get to know other volunteers?

☑ Are there service opportunities in the community that attenders can participate in?  Are they accessible to everyone?

☑ Are service, volunteer, and small group opportunities consistently being mentioned from stage (i.e. a priority for the church) or are they seen as an afterthought?

How To Make This Happen In Your Church

My wife and I are thrilled with both the impression and connection we've found at our church.

But this isn't just about our experience.  I believe the items listed here can be implemented by and improved at any church, helping churches both better reach people through impression and assist those people in growing closer to Christ through connection.

While a church management system like Breeze can help with many of these tasks, identifying the areas that need improvement and doing something about them can only be done by you.  As a result, we'd recommend running through the following exercise with your key leaders.  If you have recent attenders who would be appropriate to invite as well, all the better.

  1. Take a large piece of paper and separate it into four sections.  Name the columns "Impression" and "Connection" and the rows "strength" and "weakness".
  1. As a group, fill in the quadrants, identifying where your church is strong in impression, weak in impression, strong in connection, and weak in connection.
  2. Once your list is complete, walk through the strengths of both impression and connection.  For each item, verbalize why it works and acknowledge anyone who plays a key role in this (this is a great opportunity for public praise of members of your team who are doing phenomenal work).
  3. Walk through each weakness and discuss one thing that could be done to make it better.  Assign that item to a specific person and set a date to check back with them.  When that date comes, check back.

We hope this helps your church create even more engaging, captivating environments where people feel welcomed and embraced by Christ's love. We found this at our church (EverGreen Ministries if you're curious) and we believe having environments like this can help lead people to deeper connections with each other and with God.

What did we miss?  See other ways to improve impression or connection in your church?  We'd love to hear about them in the comments below!


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