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 Visits Blog – Reader Questions Answered

Why do you write this blog?
I write this blog because many guests (visitors) to churches are not treated in a warm Christian manner as they visit churches new to them. I’ve observed this behavior, first-hand, over and over again in the past 20 years as I’ve visited new churches myself. It’s hard for churches to game corrections to this behavior. Each church appears to have its own DNA governing such behavior.

Over the years, I’ve received many personal emails documenting such un-Christian behavior, leading many email writers to stop church going completely. This blog is not written to criticize churches so much as to point out behaviors which may be turning seekers away, possibly forever. Many churches tell me they take these observations seriously and work internally to address them. A few have invited me to share my experiences and observations of such off-putting behavior, as well as my suggestions for improvement. Finally, many guests tell me they find new churches to visit or join by reading this blog.

Are you an Anchorage Daily News employee?
No! ADN, as a community service, supports a number of community bloggers who contribute specific content on a regular basis. Like ADN’s COMPASS feature on the editorial page, community members are allowed an opportunity to share their views on a number of topics via these community blogs. You may not agree with the content of a particular commenter, but it is an important service ADN provides to keep the community informed regarding a various issues. The Church Visits blog includes the ability to respond with your comments, pro or con, to stimulate a vigorous debate about issues blogged.

How do you pick which churches you visit?
I pick churches to visit in various ways. First, I pick churches of significant membership size. Approximately 10 to 20 Anchorage churches/parishes/congregations represent the majority of church attendance in our community. I also respect recommendations to visit a particular church. Unusual celebrations or sermons, as announced in ADN’s Matters of Faith announcements in the Saturday paper, also catch my eye. I revisit previously-visited churches on a regular basis. Pastors change, as do members and programs. I love to compare churches over time.

You missed so many things my church does locally in your visit report. Why?
Of course I cannot gain the full scope of what your church does over the course of a year in just one visit, but neither can a guest (visitor). Remember, I’m writing this blog from the standpoint of a visitor. Guests will, however, vote with their feet if they are not warmly greeted, fail to sense true Christian hospitality, be treated to music performed primarily as entertainment, or hear poorly delivered non-biblical sermons. I’ve heard many sermons where pastors did not refer to biblical themes or texts for the first 15 minutes to half hour. Surveys reveal the number one reason people visit churches is to hear what churches believe, their doctrine. The average visitor decides in the first 5-8 minutes whether they will make a 2nd visit to your church. Often they’ll walk out before church starts.

What do you do if you make a mistake in a visit report?
I correct mistakes as they are brought to my attention or noticed by me. Every posted article in Church Visits, since its inception over five years ago, is available in ADN’s archive. It is important these articles remain factual and correct. Remember, my articles represent my point of view. Occasionally I discover my impressions or church behaviors change over time. I’m very happy to point out these differences or changes in print.

I invite individuals to contact me by email to discuss any particular visit, my qualifications, or approaches. All communication is kept private.

Anchorage Daily News is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

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