Church Visits

Visiting Churches: Chris Thompson (stainedglass) is an amateur Alaskan biblical scholar and student of religion, especially as it relates to popular culture. He regularly attends national and regional American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature events to interact with and learn from worldwide religion scholars. Through unannounced mystery visits to churches in Anchorage and South-Central Alaska, he observes how guests (visitors) are treated during this initial church visit. Research indicates guests first visit perceptions affects further spiritual growth and religious attitudes as they search for a church home. Chris' church visits focus primarily on Christian churches. This blog contains accounts of those visits, and related posts about religion in culture. Chris looks for the following in his visits:

•Genuine welcome, true Christian hospitality

•Friendliness and warmth

•Effective, well-delivered, Bible-based, main teaching

•Music deepening the worship, not just entertainment

Google map of churches Chris Thompson has visited.

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Significant 2013 Church Visits Posts

Top Ten Issues Local Churches Must Address in 2013

Ten Things Churches Did That Blew Me Away In 2012

Guest Post: Why Theology Matters to Musicians

Church Visits: What's it like visiting a church with a guest-friendly service? - 7/5/2014 2:08 pm

Church Visits: 10 excuses people give for not attending church - 6/28/2014 11:21 am

Church Visits: Religious pluralism in Alaska here to stay - 6/21/2014 8:28 am

Church Visits: Welcoming churches can reverse attendance slump - 6/14/2014 9:21 am

Crosspoint Community Church Revisit – May 11, 2014 - 6/13/2014 1:44 pm

Church Visits: 5 easy ways to increase your biblical literacy - 6/7/2014 5:23 pm

Church Visits: Cardinal Dolan discusses the pastoral challenges facing Pope Francis - 5/31/2014 1:07 pm

Beast Feast: Great Food and Conversation - 5/30/2014 10:10 pm

Church Members Want This in Bulletins

Bulletin Nonsense in Many Churches
Many churches have thrown the traditional bulletin out the window, replacing them with "Worship Guides" or bulletins without the information members and guests really want. This creates a confusing state of affairs appearing to substitute meaningless change instead of meaningful change.

What Do People Want
Nationally noted church consultant Thom Rainer recently performef an informal survey of church members asking a simple question, "What do you want in a church bulletin?". His findings were astounding, going against the grain of the direction of what many churches are now doing.

Rainer's top 5 findings, in order of response, are listed below.

Respondents have little patience with bulletins filled with incorrect facts or grammatical errors. They are looking for a quality handout, worthy of their church's name, and in touch with our times.
Sermon notes/outlines
Members are looking for space to write notes regarding the sermon. Many take these notes home for study. They're also looking for helps, outlines, and reference. This surprised me because I think they're a distraction.
Order of service
Without this, members and guests have no idea of what's coming, who's participating, and a time-frame of the service. Regardless how many pastors think they're being very modern by dispensing with this information, they're upsetting large numbers of people by doing away with it. As a professional church visitor, I find it very confusing, as would any guest, to understand what is going on without a reference as to what is planned.
Attendance/stewardship statistics
This was a real surprise to me but members appear to like this data. It's a sign of health in the church. A pastor should not spend time berating giving patterns. Inclusion of giving data solves that issue.
Members indicated they don't mind some announcements in the bulletin, but would rather see them on a screen or video before or after the service, or on the church's website. Too many churches have pages of announcements to the point one has to literally wade through them.

I urge churches and pastors to reexamine this issue. Many in our local area appear to have leaped before they looked. There is abundant information and studies available to help such as the aforementioned Rainer study. To link to this study click HERE.

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