Dr. Win Arn had a fascinating article in his "Newsletter for the Leaders of Growing Churches." He was dealing with the question, "What are first-time visitors looking for in a church?" He did a survey among a couple thousand first-time visitors, and asked them, "What factors led to your returning again after coming the first time?" Here is what they listed, in order:
1) First and foremost, the friendliness and warmth of the church. When both unchurched and churched people were asked what they look for in a church, they all agreed on one factor: the climate of the congregation. They were looking for a church in which they felt at home, where the people were friendly, and where there was warmth and a comfortable atmosphere. By the way, this attitude is conveyed at two different times -- when the visitors first entered the building and also when worship was over and people began to get up out of their seats.
2) The character of the worship experience. Is it authentic? Does it echo with the notes of grace? Is the worship celebrative? People want to experience the presence of God. People already know they are sinners. They don't need to be convinced of that. What they need is affirmation of the reality and depth of God's love for them.
3) A place for children. Visitors perceive the needs of their children as a major factor in a decision to find a church. Churches that provide opportunities for children will be effective in attracting new people.
4) A solid program for youth. One way to involve unchurched families is to offer things which are relevant to middle high and high school youth. They need a hands-on encounter with ministry that gives them a personal sense of God's mission for their lives.
5) The church building. Many churches today look old, smell musty, and feel imposing. Imagine Church has been wise in developing plans for its new facility that will attract guests by the imaginative nature of its architecture and design. A church needs to know if its facility attracts or deters guests. Ours will have outstanding visibility, easy accessibility, and a character which we believe will draw people into the presence of God.
In the name of the One who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
Bruce Jones, Pastor and Co-Creator,
Imagine Church of the Carolinas