We all want to believe we are friendly. I’ve never been to a church that said, “we’re not friendly.” Well, I take that back. I once visited with a minister who said “we’re not a very friendly congregation.” And boy, he meant it. But usually churches I work with are evangelical protestant congregations with a heart for those outside the faith. Such churches want newcomers to feel welcomed and go through great lengths to create environments that say, “we’re glad you here.” But sometimes there’s a disconnect between what happens inside and what people see on the outside.
Recently I saw this sign outside a church’s front door:
In principle I don’t have a problem with a church not wanting people to eat, talk on the phone or even chew gum. Ok, I have a problem with not being able to chew gum at church. But should that be the first message someone new to your church sees? Is that the most important thing you want to tell a person outside the faith before they even get into the building? Come on, now.
Churches can spend a lot of effort and money on special services, websites and marketing materials only to have a small, ill-conceived sign ruin the experience for someone new. You might see it as an inconsequential detail. I believe it’s a consequential fail. When was the last time you walked around your church building with someone new and really took inventory of what you’re communicating?
Am I being over sensitive? What’s the first message someone new “sees” as they come to your church?