This is part two of a two-part blog post. You can read part one by clicking here.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I spent the last month visiting other churches. These churches were all very different from each other in many ways. The one consistent factor was that it was my first experience in each of these churches. My goal was to learn from these churches and also to be reminded of what it feels like to be new. I'm sharing my experience from the perspective of a first-time visitor, an outsider. The first big thing I learned from visiting these churches is that a smaller church doesn't always mean it's easier to get connected. The second big thing I learned is that a bigger church doesn't always mean a better experience. In this post, I'm sharing three other big things I learned over the last month.
3. Having an online presence is critical for visitors.
Before I attended any of these churches I looked them up online. I googled them. I went to their websites. I also looked them up on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I looked up their pastor(s) on social media as well. If they had video clips of their sermons, I watched a little bit of them. I wanted to know what to expect before I actually visited them. I probably did more online research than most visitors will, but I can guarantee you that almost every visitor is checking you out online in some capacity before they come to your church.
What this means is that your true first impression begins online. If you want to reach people, especially young people, then you should be investing some of your resources into an online presence. Here's the crazy thing. You can create and manage a social media account for free. It costs you nothing to have a Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram account. You can also have a simple website for fairly cheap. It doesn't have to be flashy. It does have to be helpful. I'd also encourage churches to cater your websites a little more toward visitors. A lot of church websites are pretty complicated and difficult to navigate, especially if you aren't churched and you don't know the insider language. But the bottom line is that people are looking you up online. So make sure you are doing your part to connect with them here.
4. There is no such thing as a perfect church.
It doesn't matter what kind of church you go to, they all have flaws. Big or small, modern or traditional, urban or rural, they will all have something that you won't like. If you jump from one church to another until you find the perfect church, you'll never stop jumping. Every church I visited had some great aspects about them and some aspects that I didn't love. Here's the tough part about this. A visitor is always going to be much more impressionable than a regular attender. Everything they see and experience will stand out. This means the good things will seem really good, but the bad things will seem really bad as well.
What this means is that your church doesn't have to be the perfect church. But one thing that set some of the churches apart from the others was that they knew what they did well, and they focused their efforts to that end. For example, the church that impressed me the most when it comes to their kids ministry was the mid-sized church we attended. They were a church full of young families, and their kids ministry was phenomenal, especially for a church of that size. They knew that kids ministry was their sweet spot and they were reaching tons of families because of it. There were other elements of their church that were rougher around the edges, but they really leaned in on the fact that they were a church focused on young families, and because of that they invested their resources and energy into their kids ministry.
5. You can worship God anywhere.
My favorite part about my experience over the last month is that I was able to worship the same God in each of these churches. Across different denominations, traditions, and experiences, the same God was lifted up, honored, glorified, and worshipped. I was able to grow in my faith, my understanding, and my love for Jesus through each of these churches. God is using each one of them to bring his kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. It's been a refreshing reminder that each church is truly just a smaller part of the larger Church.
What this means is that your church isn't the most important church in the world. This is a tough lesson for me. As a pastor planting a new church and as someone who has worked in a church, I know how easy it is to get caught up in the mindset that my church has to do it all, my church has to reach everyone, and my church has to meet everyone's needs. The truth is every church has a responsibility to reach people, meet people's needs, and bring people to Jesus. But the more we can look at our churches as a smaller part of the body of Christ in the world, the more we can accomplish together.
Whether you are a current church leader, church attender, or someone who doesn't go to church, I hope this blog post has been helpful to you. I'd love to hear from you as well. Let me know what you think I got right, or what I missed from this blog.
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