Church communicators and pastors work really hard to make sure that the right message of hope found in the Gospel are reaching people where they are. But for all of our hard work, there are always a few things that we might miss that are communicating a message contrary to what we are trying to send elsewhere.

Listen to this great podcast episode on creating a clear guest connections strategy, too.

These are those subtle, unnoticed things we do sometimes that seem like nothing, but could end up deterring guests from a second visit. Is it irrational? Yes. Does it still happen? Yes. So, let’s take a look at some of the ways your church might be telling visitors not to come back.

Your website lied

Visitors today will look you up online before they visit your church unless someone they know at the church is really pressing on them to come along. If your website shows people who are older and your church is younger, the elderly couple that visits your site and then your church are going to be confused. The church that misrepresents itself online loses a lot of credibility on the first visit.

No directional signage inside or outside

Without signs that tell visitors where things are, they could leave that morning feeling very frustrated and foolish. No one wants to go back to a place that makes them feel that way.

Visitors have nowhere to park in your lot

“Our lot is so full, there’s nowhere to park! But, it’s a good problem to have!” No. No, it’s really not. Think of how many people drive by and think, “Eh, let’s just go to the church a few blocks away that’s easier to get in and out of.” If they do happen to drive around your lot for a bit, find a place far from the church, and walk the whole way only to walk in late, they are starting their experience with your people in a frustrated state already. That’s hard to come back from.

Locked doors

When it’s church time, and visitors show up, they fully expect the doors to be open. When they walk up to a door to enter and it’s locked, nothing says “you’re not welcome” like a door that won’t budge.

Your building cannot be seen from the road

Ok, simple fix here. I’ve worked in a church before that had so much greenery and foliage growing in front of the building (that didn’t really look like a church anyway), that no one could see our church name on the building. See ya, drive by attendees! Call a company to come trim or cut those trees down so that the community can see where you are!

No one except staff talks to visitors

Are your greeters trained to carry on a conversation with guests? Good! Most people who visit know this too, so even though this is a must, it’s not the end of the “Did anyone talk to us?” question. You’ve got to have some people that aren’t wearing the greeter badge that will talk to newbies too.

The Pastor negatively rants about media in a non-joking way

I know it’s tempting to rant about those lazy millennials and their stupid NetTubes and SnapFaces, but it does more harm than good. Churches that are openly bashing the technology that has become such a part of young peoples’ lives immediately get shadowbanned.

No one sits in the front 10 rows

I’m not sure how to really put my finger on what this exactly “says,” but I know how it makes me feel. It feels like the church isn’t that excited about the vision. Or maybe it’s a splash zone for your spitting pastor? Maybe there’s a dude that sits up there and smells like feet? I don’t know. The point is, if no one’s in the first or second row, I could give you that. It could just mean it’s a Baptist church (zing!). However, if no one’s in the first 5-10 rows, something’s up.

Your children’s area doesn’t seem secure

Notice I said that your children’s area doesn’t seem secure. It might be pretty secure, but if parents feel like just anyone can walk back to the rooms or if your hallway is accessible to the masses, it could be cause for uneasiness. This is a tough thing to overcome if your building layout is wonky, but if visitors see you’re trying hard to make it secure, it’s better than nothing.

Your kids are in a different room for pickup than where you left them

Ok, this is just frustrating for the sake of being frustrating. I get that your children’s program might require you to transport kids to different parts of the program in other spaces like a large group area or whatever, and that’s fine. However, if the kids are dropped off in one room and I have to find them in another room because a teacher had to leave or we posted a flow chart to explain how to find your kid after, I DON’T CARE! It’s super annoying, I’ve already been spit on by your pastor, and I can’t find the bathroom so I’m barely holding it together as it is!

All joking aside, even though some of these things are ridiculous reasons not to return to a church, they happen, and sometimes there’s really nothing you can do to prevent it.

All you can do is try and make situations like this less likely at your church and try your best to make everyone feel loved and cared for when they begin to engage with you.

What other ways have you seen visitors subtly told to scram? Let me know in the comments!

Check out The Seminary of Hard Knocks Podcast for more on church social media, email marketing, and content strategy with some of today’s leading church communicators! Thanks for reading!

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