Thom S. Rainer on 15 Characteristics of Genuinely Friendly Churches

As churches begin to regather for in-person services, some areas of guest friendliness will change, at least for the short-term. For example, for precautionary reasons we likely will not be giving guests physical gifts.

As I have consulted with churches over the years, I have assembled data on what I called GFCs, genuinely friendly churches. I set certain parameters for GFCs; then I attempted to measure the guest return rates for those churches. A guest return rate is simply the percentage of guests who will return to the church for at least a second visit.

Here is the simple but profound difference I found in GFCs and all other churches: A genuinely friendly church has a guest return rate six times greater than other churches.

Did you get that? If a church meets the guidelines to be a GFC, the probability of a guest returning is six times higher than all other churches! Sadly, only about one of twenty churches meets the criteria necessary to be a GFC.

When I began as a consultant, I had 10 criteria, and the church had to meet at least eight of those criteria to be a GFC. I have since expanded the list to 15, and require churches to meet 12 of the 15 to be a GFC. Here are the 15 characteristics of genuinely friendly churches:

  1. They are intentional about being friendly. Warmth and friendliness are clear values of these churches. They are articulated regularly. All organizations, including churches, naturally drift toward an inward focus unless they are otherwise intentional.
  2. The leaders model warmth, humility, and friendliness. The friendliness is not contrived or phony. These leaders have prayerfully become genuinely friendly men and women.
  3. The leaders are clear that genuine friendliness is more than a brief stand and greet time in a worship service. The efficacy of a stand and greet time has been debated extensively in a previously published article. Regardless of a church’s decision in this practice, leaders in GFCs were adamant that true hospitality and friendliness extends beyond a two-minute welcome time.
  4. GFCs utilize a secret guest at least twice a year. One small church of which I am aware budgets $100 a year for a secret guest. They pay the guest with a $50 gift card to come to the church and provide feedback on their experience. I call this process “looking in the mirror” because it gives the church a real opportunity to see itself as others do.
  5. GFCs had a guest friendly website. The website typically set the tone for a guest. If it did not have obvious information for a guest, such as worship times and addresses, the guest came to the church with a more negative disposition.
  6. The church has clear signage. Far too many churches lack this signage. They assume that everyone knows where everything is. First-time guests know nothing about the church or its different facilities.
  7. GFCs have a well-organized greeters’ ministry. They have greeters in the parking lot, greeters in the entrances, and greeters in other strategic locations inside. Many GFCs utilize newer members in this ministry.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Thom S. Rainer