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Unwelcome: 50 Ways Churches Drive Away First-Time Visitors Paperback – October 8, 2014
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Okay, enough of that - this book is GREAT and here's why:
1) It's packed with content, but not in an overwhelming way.
It's true - Jonathan has 50 ideas to improve the way your church functions on a given morning where guests may attend. Each idea is no more than 4 pages, in fact, most are about 2 pages in length. I found myself reading 10 or so at a time, jotting notes and questions to bring before my senior pastor at our weekly meetings. I'll be bringing my questions each week for several weeks to come - giving each proper attention.
2) It's not too specific, but not too broad.
There's a great balance in the presentation of these ideas. Generally it'll start with a wide brushstroke idea, then lay out some more pointed thoughts on the topic.
3) This is a book that EVERY church needs to read - and read with an open mind.
They say you have an outside perspective of your organization until you've been involved with it for about 6 months. After that, you're an insider, and unfortunately, can become blind to ways your experience is inadvertently doing strange things that adversely affect a visitors desire to return. If you're like me, the idea that a visitor could show up, experience something totally jarring that you overlooked, and high tail it out of your church forever is highly concerning - and perhaps happens more than we like to think it does. Lord, forgive us for the ways we turn people away from You. That's where it's tough, I think. People attend a church because they like it. The insiders don't recognize a need to improve things because its familiar and comfortable to them. This book is our outside perspective! But you have to be willing to approach it with a Kingdom mindset, not in a defensive-of -our-church's-structure kind of way.
4) The stories added really hit home.
Jonathan adds a lot of firsthand experiences to the conversation. Stories about great experiences as a first time attender, and some really eye-opening stories of bad first time experiences. Hearing some of the very odd things churches do, somewhat thoughtlessly, sparked a resolve in me not to let that happen at my church on my watch.
No joke - one time I was visiting a church and was greeted by a guy with a huge fluffy beard and handlebar mustache wearing in a Scottish kilt. Needless to say, first impression was very odd... guys in skirts.... Then 10 seconds later, an usher pegged me as a guest and ran off to retrieve for me the most giant welcome gift wrapped in bouquet style fluorescent yellow cellophane. Awesome. No sneaking in and hiding in the back row now. EVERYONE knew I was an outsider as I entered the sanctuary....
My second visit to this church, they were playing 80s hair metal as pre-service music........ o_0
It's a good thing I'm very comfortable in the church!
But lets be real - the un-churched are probably NOT comfortable in the church.
Listen - if you read this book and think "This isn't for my church. We're not a giant seeker-friendly mega church." then you need to realize you WILL need to translate some of it to the culture of your church. As I was going through it I asked myself "Is this valuable to my church?" and if I said no, it wasn't because the ideas were bad, but rather that my church wasn't at a place for them yet OR that we were already taking great strides in that area to make the experience excellent.
Big church or small, it's important to step back and evaluate your quirks. This is a book I plan to read yearly to continue to bring our best. The introduction of this book says it all - and the whole point is not just to create a warm welcome, a friendly atmosphere, a seamless experience, and call it good - the whole point is to do everything within our abilities to prepare an unhindered way for people to connect with God at our churches.
I think about the old Gandhi quote "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ." and can't help but think it applies here too. Guests might be looking for hope and healing, walking into our churches as a last resort... but His people and the place they created might look uninviting, careless to their visitor's needs, an exclusive only to those who "fit" the demographic of the religious country club we often make it.
Let's not be thoughtless to our guests!
Thank you Jonathan for this great book - we plan to use a lot of it to train our hospitality volunteers.
Our Guest Services director and I laughed hysterically at the Greeter Gauntlet. And by hysterically, I mean both in the sense that it was funny and with a little bit of hysteria as we realized we were doing that to our guests. Yikes!
Thanks Jonathan, great book, easy read, wonderful advice. Keep up the great work, we need your perspective and advice to reduce barriers and make it easier for people to experience Christ!
Easy to read and short. I finished it in less than 2 hours.
Good, vivid real life illustrations that highlight the point.
Author shows a genuine love for the de-churched and unchurched.
Majority of points are large church kind of issues. Not enough for small churches.
The distinction between some points is blurry. It could have easily been 35 ways instead of 50. It felt repetitive at times.
Could tell without reading the author's bio that it came from a worship leader's perspective. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but the clear focus of many points was on worship.
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