My father-in-law is also a pastor, and we were talking recently about how we can become blind to problems in our churches over time. He made a great observation, “Familiarity breeds invisibility”. We don’t really notice our surroundings after awhile. At home, after a few days we no longer notice the clutter on the counter, the chipped paint in the corner of the wall, the weeds next to the garage.
The same is true in a worship service or church building. We stop noticing low quality after awhile. Common problems we become blind to:
- The worship music sound is not professional.
- The lobby is cluttered.
- The greeters aren’t greeting.
- The up-fronters use insider language that first-time guests can’t relate to.
- The signage to the restrooms is hard to see.
- Practical instructions about how to take Communion are not given.
- The nursery needs painted.
- The landscaping is shabby.
- The sanctuary seating or parking lot is either too full or too empty (both should be between 65%- 80% full in order to feel comfortably full).
- Sermons lack practical application.
- Pre-service and post-service music (iTunes or live) is not loud enough or exciting enough to create an atmosphere of expectation and celebration.
- There is dead-air during the service.
- Announcements go way too long with no practical directions for what next step to take to get involved in something.
- Add your own here, or BETTER YET…
To give us a new person’s persepctive, my father-in-law suggested inviting friends from another church, or even better, unchurched friends, to your worship services to evaluate them. If familiarity breeds invisibility, we need to see our worship experiences through fresh eyes, eyes that will be honest with us.
You could print a checklist of questions for them to think about while they visit the service and then use when you interview them for 30 minutes on Sunday afternoon while it’s all fresh in their minds. Ask them for feedback in the following areas, plus any others you would like to know about:
- Parking lot
- Greeting and ushering
- Nursery and children’s spaces
- Worship music quality
- Flow of service, engaging, length
- Guest welcome after the service
- Follow up
When they give you feedback, don’t say anything in response but “Thank you”. Do not be defensive. These honest people are your best friends. Without them we are blind to what new people are seeing every single week. Our churches can be so much more effective because of their honesty.