Here is a 30 minute video prepared for church leaders and focusing on building blocks for impacting a community. This presentation is by David Arrol MacFarlane.
The Attractive church Checklist (increasing our friendship factor)
#2 Easy Access?
How easy do we actually make it for people new to our churches (invited by a friend, searching for answers to a spiritual need, looking for God etc.) to connect with us in a meaningful enough way that it can lead to ministry, salvation and possibly belonging? How hard or easy is our access for them? Is it clear? Do we even have well used and indicated ramps?
Let me start with a story (how I learn the best) that changed the way I look at “easy access” in light of connecting with new attenders. In this architectural magazine I read of an architect that, once this big apartment complex was built, would not allow the builders to put in any of the cement walkways leading from the building. Instead he insisted that only turf be put down. A few months later once all the units were sold, he went back with the builders to look at the grass. Now there were very visible worn paths leading from the many building exit doors to the bus stop, short cuts to the strip mall, subway, parking lots etc. The architect then told the builders to put their cement walkways exactly where the occupants had shown them, through use, where they “wanted” them. None of the paths were straight or where the architect or builders would have put them but they were perfect for the occupants who lived there and everyone was happy (including the gardener). Are our “paths” to connecting with new people where they should be to meet their needs and for maximum engagement? Easy access can lead to a good experience for new people and be one more reason for them to see your church as genuinely welcoming and consider coming back. Easy access is an area where we can always do better.
The Goal: That those God is bringing to us find it easy to connect with us and feel genuinely valued, welcomed and ministered to.
The Need: That our building and signs make it easy for new people to navigate and get the welcome and information that they are looking for. Sadly, if we are believers, and this is our home church, we already know our customs, culture and where everything is so we often do not notice if our building is “user friendly” and welcoming to a stranger to our faith. How we are now might make no difference to an already Christian visiting but for a new person who, likely, has little understanding of our faith and no idea of what goes on inside our buildings “easy access” can make all the difference between being turned off and feeling they do not fit to acceptance. One man who came to Christ said: “When I visited, I thought I would get ignored and feel uncomfortable like the last bad experience I had in church as a young man but you guys “blew me away”. You do care. You are the real deal!”
The Solution: Every quarter have someone go through the church from top to bottom with a visitor’s eye (like a secret shopper) and remove or change anything that makes access confusing or difficult.
Implementation of easy access (not an exhaustive list):
- Is the website fresh and current (no old announcements for past events)?
- Is the address and service times shown in clearly up front and on every page?
- Is there a clear map on how to get to the church?
- Does the building look well taken care of and welcoming (“if they don’t care for their building, they will not care for me” is a true adage)?
- For young families: How bright and welcoming are your nursery and Sunday school rooms? Will the parents feel comfortable leaving their children there?
- Once they arrive are the Church signs big and visible (Parking; Main entrance; coat racks; Information desk; Nursery; Sunday School; washrooms…)? New people usually feel uncomfortable in “foreign” surroundings and don’t want to ask, especially if the lobby is full of people in private conversations. Good signs really help make people feel comfortable.
- For seekers: Is there an easy to find and well marked prayer room or information desk, or free book rack that they are directed to for prayer or more information.
- Do the volunteers have big friendly name tags with their first names?
- Warning: Nervous newcomers like to sit at the back in case they want to “escape” so are the back chairs/pews graciously left for them to sit in?
- Elevator or ramps for wheelchairs clearly marked and operational?
Thoughtful evaluation: Unexpectedly, my degree in Marketing and experience in business (Amex) trained me to always look for “easy access” because we really should want the people God is bringing to us to come back. One church that had me consult for them about retention proudly showed me all the beautiful new signs they had put up throughout the church. Yes, they did look great (coat rack, washrooms this way; Information desk…) when the lobby was empty… but when you put the congregation in it on a Sunday all these nice signs were placed too low and totally not visible anymore. For example, the “Information Desk” sign was attached bellow the counter of the beautiful desk and only visible if there was no one in the lobby. The point is that with a little thoughtfulness sometimes all it takes, to improve your churches easy access, is to put the signs where they can be most visible and helpful. Easy access is never fully achieved – it is something we must constantly be aware of and improving but the payoff in helping people in Jesus name is our ultimate goal.
David Arrol Macfarlane lives, with his wife Diana, in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and can be invited to speak in churches and at events.