Eleven of the Most Common Mistakes Churches Make

I was recently in Arkansas speaking with a pastor who is a daily reader of this blog. He expressed gratitude for all the free content, but then he made a kind plea. He said that the blog has so much content that it can be overwhelming at times.

He then asked if I could write some posts that summarized several issues I covered in multiple articles over many months. I asked him to give me an example for clarity. He said, “Maybe you could write an article on the ten most common mistakes made by churches.”

His request is proof positive that my readers are much smarter than I am. Why didn’t I think of that?

Thank you, pastor. Here is my response with one added to the ten. These are not necessarily the most important issues (I think theological heresy would outrank them all), but they are the most common.

  1. Failure to have a informative, easy-to-use website. I cringe when I see some churches’ websites. That is now the first place a prospective guest visits when he or she is thinking about attending a church. Websites are incredibly affordable today, and they can be updated easily. A church website should be updated at least once a week. It should be one of high quality. And it should contain good and accurate information for guests and members alike.
  2. Failure of pastors and staff to be actively involved in social media. That is analogous to a missionary in another land failing to learn how to speak the language of the people. 
  3. Failure of pastors and staff to understand they represent the church when they are involved in social media. When I see some of the blog posts and Twitter and Facebook communication of pastors and staff, I am often left speechless. Even if it is a personal blog or Twitter or Facebook account (or almost a dozen other social media entrants), church members read them. The community reads them. Pastors and staff: you represent yourself, your church, and, most importantly, Christ. Please be careful with your words. 
  4. Failure to urge people to be a part of groups. Groups are key to healthy assimilation, ministry involvement, evangelistic intentionality, biblical accountability, and community connections. Church leaders should regularly encourage members and others to get involved in a small group, home group, Sunday school class, or some other ongoing group. 
  5. Failure of leaders to be actively involved in influencing the content of groups. Can you imagine a pastor asking a random person to preach on Sunday morning without any idea what that person would say? That’s how many leaders treat their groups. Some have no idea what is being taught, studied, and discussed. 
  6. Failure of church members to be considerate of where they sit during a worship service. I can’t tell you how many guests told me they had to climb over church members who arrived early and got an aisle seat. I can’t tell you how many left no room for others because they used space for their coats, Bibles, smartphones, and other items. 
  7. Failure to have parking lot greeters. This ministry is a church’s opportunity to make a positive first impression. However, most churches do not have parking lot greeters. 
  8. Failure to have clearly marked guest parking. Most churches have guest parking places. The problem is most guests can’t find them. 
  9. Failure to have clearly marked entrances to the worship center. Ask a person who has never attended your church to do so. Then ask them how difficult it was to find the worship center. Because we know our own church well, we often don’t comprehend the challenges a first time guest may have. 
  10. Failure to have clearly marked entrances to the church offices. This issue is, of course, more of a problem during weekdays. 
  11. Failure to have adequate restroom facilities. There should be an adequate number of restrooms. They should be clean. And guests should see clearly marked signs that tell them how to find them.

This “top ten plus one” list is not comprehensive. It simply represents the most common mistakes I see. I look forward to your responses and feedback.


  1. says

    Just last week, I visited two church websites.

    Church Website number 1: Featured the pastor as the superstar. But the website failed to disclose the meeting location, service times, or even what country the church is in.

    Church Website number 2: Awesome displays of the ministry of the church. Well done website. But the website failed to disclose the meeting location, service times, or even what country the church is in.

    Can’t forget the most important detail:

    Where and when are your services?


      • Chaplain Ed Sischo says

        Hi Thom,
        I work at a trauma center hospital. I find myself trying to make contacts for patients who want desperately to talk to their own pastor or have them visit, but do not know their phone numbers. Today many if not most pastors are using cell phone and therefore are not listed in a directory. Most church web sites, and even church answering services post their office hours telephone numbers but do not provide an emergency number. Because of hospital rules I cannot simply “leave a message” as directed by the service. As a chaplain I try hard to fill the void, but sometimes I only add to their frustration when I have to attempt to explain why I could not help them.

    • Jay Michael says

      The crazy part is I was sent this (as I am the IT guy) because they said I need to get this information on the website…..unfortunately I have the service times in 2 locations, the address in 2 locations, 8 ways to contacts us, every type of social madia, and even a special message in 4 locations, and no one can find anything, or figure out how to contact us :-/

    • Rev. Heidi Smith says

      When I travel and look for churches to visit, the failure to have the worship time(s) clearly visible on the website is my #1 pet peeve, followed closely by not having the same information on the church’s phone recording…

  2. says

    Great list Thom! I’m already in on #4 and more convinced everyday that #5 is extremely critical today. In fact, that might be my #1 takeaway from Geiger and Stetzer’s new book, Transformational Groups.

    • Mare says

      Thanks for seeing the importance of small groups! I think it is a vital part of a growing church body. People need someplace to be “associated” with, to feel welcomed and listened to. Our culture has become so far away from the personal touch in lives. Thank you for sharing this new book, I can’t wait to read it!!

  3. Leon says

    Thom, I would add something about child care to the list. I did an Interim for a church recently and the child care room was right next door to an exit. That was a recipe for disaster for sure. Most young couples want to know their children are safe and cared for adequately.

    • says

      I would have to add in addition to safety, that a quality children’s program is also premium. I believe people want to see that you are vested in their children as much as you are them.

    • Celeste says

      We left a church due to poor attention to children. My toddler walked outside and played and nobody even noticed she was missing. I only knew when she made her way to me in the sanctuary which was next door and quite a little walk with it pitch dark outside!! she was 2!!
      I asked them about it, rather upset, and they did not even apologize. We never went back.

      • Gordon says

        Oh my gosh Celeste, that is horrible. I want to apologize to you, even though we are likely not even in the same country. I am, nevertheless, a Christian and the people who did this claim to be a part of my family. This is absolutely shameful. It seems like more and more these days I feel a need to apologize for the actions and attitudes of others who claim to be Christian

      • Just visiting says

        Was your child in a children’s church or a nursery and the leader was not watching her? I am saying that because my child does not leave my side at church and the only way I see that happening is that the child was in a nursery or children’s church.

  4. says

    We have a website that is quite developed. It is however somewhat vanilla. I wanted something that would work with mobile and not occupy a lot of screen with graphics and pictures. The site has a lot of features with the emphasis on communicated Jesus. Do I really need a lot of graphics or is simplicity more important.

    • jonathon says

      Content is king.

      You don’t need graphics, if your content is well written, organized, and properly designed.

      The simplest test is to throw away your keyboard, mouse, and monitor. If somebody else can navigate your website, and clearly understand the content, you have a winner. If they can’t do that, rewrite and re-layout everything until they can.

    • says

      Wow, I visited your church site and unfortunately I got lost and really couldn’t find the information I wanted. I think you guys should rethink it a bit. And. yes, content is important, but people today won’t stay on a plain website for long. Often you have 30 seconds to hook and inform people. I spent that trying to figure where to click first…

    • Torie N Pendleton says


      As the wife of an Active Duty AF Member, I can tell you that one of the first things we wives do is look at church websites when we get new orders! Trolling a website is the safest way to avoid visiting a new church that is just not for your family.

      I honestly eliminate a lot of churches within the first few minutes of looking at their site. If it is boring and generic, it feels like the church does not value the age we live in. Yes, this is a judgement call that may not be true, but even someone like me, who has been saved and in church for a long time, does it! Can you imagine how a lost person or a person who hasn’t been in church feels about a generic site? They are used to cruising the web on a daily basis and advertisers are doing bigger and better things with their sites.

      Most churches can’t compete with the budgets that companies have but a webpage is very important to those who are secretly searching for a place. Church websites need to speak to that person who is seeking something and they have no idea that they are being lead by the Spirit.

      I encourage you to pray about revamping your site with those who are unsure about church and Jesus in mind. And think of the seasoned church members who know what they re looking for:

      a clear doctrinal statement
      service times
      an updated calendar
      Introductions for your ministry leaders with their education and experiences listed
      Available ministries

      People want to see that the church is active in ministry and fellowship.

      I hope this helps and hope many more come to the saving knowledge of Jesus through your ministry!



  5. says

    Great list! 7, 8 and 10 I can work on immediately, but number 6 is one that has ALWAYS frustrated me. It would be nice if Mr & Mrs Maturity would sit toward the front center! Although I have to admit, my claustrophobia has me wanting an isle seat, I just have to be intentional about inviting and making it easy for others to get around me :-)

  6. Saidy says

    We’ve been wanting to set up a website but it seems to be overwhelming, what options or designers for churches do you recommend?

  7. Brandy says

    As someone who is just now getting into churches and trying to find a home church, none of these were at the top of my list for things churches are doing wrong.

    • Brandy says

      I just wanted to elaborate. For #1 – I have used word of mouth in every endeavor to a new church. I have never visited a website. #2 – I have also found myself wondering if the pastor has nothing better to do in His service than post pictures and scriptures on facebook and twitter all day #3 -. I have also never seen a pastor post anything out of line. The congregation, however… #4 – I have found many churches trying their hardest to shove me into one group or another, and also deciding which group would be best for me and directing me there without asking what I thought. #5 – It seems in most cases, as well, that the pastor knows the group leaders well enough to know that they are the right ones for the job. They may have even been led to select those leaders through prayer. In those cases, very little supervision would be necessary. #6 – I never cared where anyone was sitting, I just found an empty spot. I’m surprised someone complained about not getting an aisle seat. #7 – I would rather be greeted at the door, especially depending on the weather. #8 – I never cared about parking either. As someone who is young(ish), I would rather park in the back so that someone who was elderly or handicapped would have better access. This was nowhere to be found on my list of things churches could do better… #9 – I can’t weigh in here, never had this issue. #10 – Same as the last. #11 – This may be the only thing on this whole list I can agree with.

      I’m just someone on the outside trying to break in who wanted to be honest.

      • Dana says

        As someone that has recently moved to a new area and visited many churches: I find parking attendants weird and unneeded (unless it is a mega church). I am more than capable to find a parking space and enter the building. At some churches the parking attendants are sitting in such a location that it almost feels like you have to pay to park. I also do not use visitor spaces for fear of being mobbed by an over zealous greeter before I even enter the church. Personally, I find “unlabeled” greeters to be the most important. I expect that the person at the door and kids check-in are going to smile and be nice – it is the job of their volunteer position. What really makes a difference is feeling like people actually want to talk to me because they are genially nice, not because that is what they volunteered to do for the day. This is not to knock greeters – they are important and need to be available to answer questions.

    • says

      I would love to hear what is at the top of your list Brandy. While this list probably wasn’t intended to be a one size fits all- I would love to hear your added perspective.

  8. Christopher Sweet says

    The simplest thing we can do for guests is to consider what we woulddo at our homes to mmake a guest feel welcomed and honored. That includes how you clean and “stage” your home, the way you help your guest find your home, the way you greet your guest and how you serve them/treat them while at your home. For some reason we do this at home with intentionality, but fail to translate these concepts to the church.

  9. Ashley says

    As a military family that has been displaced from our hometown for several years now, we are always in search of a new church home. Unfortunately, we haven’t had much success with that for the past 4 years. We’ve tried numerous churches and none seemed like a comfortable fit. We found a great church but it had no Sunday school, no bible studies, no groups, no involvement other than Sunday morning worship. We found a church with a all the above mentioned and everything was wonderful for several weeks until we asked the pastor how to become members of the Church. He gave us little direction, sort of blew us off, and told us to see people at the front desk. We asked them and they gave us a vague answer. We haven’t returned since. We tried another church with a great service, great Bible studies, and various activities. We joined the softball team and were appalled at some of the member’s behavior. One of the deacons was on the team and was extremely rude to my husband when he asked if he would like to go golfing sometime. I could write a book on this subject. I’ve searched for so many years to find a great Church and I’ve basically found 3 I was in love with…all 3 times I’ve had to move away (military life).

    • Torie says


      I feel your pain!

      We have been members for 18 years and lived in many different locations. Finding a church family gets harder and harder every time we move. Our first assignment was Japan and, not sure if you’ve ever been in an overseas Mil. church, our experience was amazing! We still have wonderful friends from there who we have witnessed dropping everything for each other, no matter how far away we are.

      Next we went to Turkey and were part of the Chapel and our own house church. It was an interesting experience and we enjoyed it.

      Then we moved to MO and had a fabulous church experience. Very active in Ministry and great fellowship!

      But, then we PCSed to Alaska! Wow! What a difference! We church hopped for the whole 4 years we were there, from the chapel, to literally every Baptist church from the main gate to 30 miles away. Some churches we stayed for one service and some we went to months on end, but none of them ever really accepted us. We were either too liberal for their conservative or too conservative for their liberal. It was so frustrating and sad when all we wanted to do was worship God and be accepted as a valuable part of their communities.

      After AK, we moved to NM, started at a church and stayed there for 2 years. I was the Women’s Ministry Director but the pastor probably talked to me outside of his office two or three time the whole time we were there. I met with him twice in his office. The first time was when I took the position and the second time was for me to initiate a clearer understanding of my role there. He was non supportive and, I see now, had no real vision for Women’s Ministry. He tolerated it ,at best.

      I should have known better though, because shortly after I took the Volunteer job, I got a phone call from him and received a pretty severe dressing down because one of our ladies had disrupted his office staff on a Friday because she wanted to print some brochures for us. She was barely in church and very skittish about going to a Baptist church; this incident just sealed her dislike for the whole place.

      BUT! I say all of this to encourage you! There is hope! Because God has moved us to a place where our church is amazing! It is a mega church, but feels like a small group of people. The core members are loving and kind. They really are happy we are here. When the pastor stands up and says ‘we want to change the world and we need your help doing it ‘, he really means it and will give you every opportunity to serve God.

      We had about 6 difficult years, but God is faithful and we had to go through the valley to appreciate what we have now. I hope you find a place for your family and I am sorry people have mistreated you. I know how it feels, but God loves you and sees your desire to serve Him.

      Do not loose heart!


      Torie Pendleton

  10. Andrew says

    I think the biggest mistake is that so many churches remind it’s people each Sunday where the bible says to tithe, but so many churches AVOID the parts of the bible that may offend or seem controversial in today’s society like homosexuality for example. I’ve been looking for a new church simply because after attending my current church for over 5 years, I still don’t know their stance on homosexuality or other controversial topics, But I do know the verse that says to tithe.

  11. KL says

    Oh, the last one is soooo true! I once visited a church that had the only ladies’ restroom in the basement -with no doors on the stalls and no lock on the main door. Anyone could walk in and see you perform your business. Yikes!!!!! I was only passing through, but if I was looking for a forever church at the time, I would not have gone to that one because when someone mentioned it, they said they had more important obligations for their money. I just feel like if a church is comfortable putting their members through inevitable shame and embarrassment like that, they did not need my attendance.

  12. says

    I feel the churches have moved away from their purpose,55% don’t know what they believe or why,they are not being taught.As far as a lot of sports and programs,we as a church can’t compete with the world.While I believe in working with the youth,i have saw churches turn everything over to the youth (novice) All we have is Jesus Christ and His birth,death on the cross and the resurrection.To show love to everyone that comes through our church doors.And offer salvation to all.

  13. Amanda Aciu says

    When church leaders, especially the Pastor, claim they are not a”people-person”. This is very sad! My family has visited a certain SDA church many times w/ no greeting from the Pastor…. Doesn’t make you feel very welcome at the church.

    • Roxanne says

      My family does not attend church. We choose to worship the Lord at our home, together, in our own way. We practice our religion the way we feel to be best for us. We do however, ALWAYS, allow our children to attend any service they want to. They need to learn and make their own decisions regarding religion. They have attended many different churches and have liked most of them but still prefer to worship at home with us. The worst thing that has happened so far beyond the typical overzealous recruiting practices, was a Pastor who moved his family to our town. My friend who attended his church asked my kids to befriend his kids and show them around school, town etc. My son and his became quite good friends at school. The problem arose when his son invited mine to spend the night. The pastor told my son this “You and your family are not Christian enough for you to be allowed to stay in our home”. I was mortified. That is NOT a Christian way to act if you ask me. If you believe my son needs more Christianity in his life then shouldn’t you, as a Pastor, work to help him not turn him away??

  14. Amanda Aciu says

    Also, regard #6

    I have actually heard church members tell visitors they were sitting in “their” seat, as if they actually own a seed in the church…..

    • Mark says

      There are only a few churches left where members can own a box. Very old ones in New England still have them, though I am not sure how strictly it is enforced.

  15. Warren Watkins says

    Thank you, Thom, for your wisdom and for the fine job you’re doing at LifeWay, producing the best theologically sound materials. However, I do want to disagree with one word in this list, in that these are not the “most” common mistakes made by churches. Your list appears to be written from the business model of church work (reread the list, asking how a business would benefit from the same advice and seeing what is or isn’t absolutely unique to the church). I don’t know if this is what you meant by theological mistakes being at the top of the list, but here are my thoughts: The most common mistake churches makes today is preaching a neo-prosperity Gospel in which church members are not challenged with the Truth: Christ requires us to give ALL. Tithing is presented as the norm, not the minimum beginning place, and churches give a sliver of their donations to world missions (SBC churches receive $12 billion a year and the IMB gets 0.8 percent). In administrative things, as you focused here, the most common mistake by churches is that pastors (compensation) and palaces are the priorities.

  16. Mark says

    First, keep the website up to date. Out of date events on the calendar are not acceptable. Describe your services if you have different types, i.e. contemporary, traditional, classical, etc. Also, if you are conservative and want to be known primarily for that then state it multiple times on your website. However, you need to know just what conservative can be taken to mean: 1) we don’t allow female leadership, clergy or participation in the service 2) we are opposed to contraception 3) we are neither open nor affirming. Sometimes conservative just means that we believe the whole bible to be inspired. You have to say what you want.

    Also, please don’t save more than one or two seats. If your parent, child, spouse, etc is on their way in then by all means say you need to hold them a seat. However, saving an entire row for your friends who may not come or because you don’t want anyone sitting near you is not “cool”. This just reminds us that cliques are alive and well.

  17. dawn says

    After living in the same town for 29 years and being a part (members) of 2 different churches for those 29 years we had to relocate to a city about 3 hours away. Therefore this has meant that we must find a new church family. We have spent 4 months checking out new churches in the area. We have been amazed at the reception (or lack of it) from the churches we have visited. At the 2 churches we came from (they were both attended by about 100 people) I can truly say that there were at least 6 individuals at each church who would always make sure that visitors were welcomed. They would ask if the visitor was new in the area and enough questions to show that they were really interested but not too much to overwhelm the individuals or families. The visitors were quite often asked to come to a members home for dinner or join them for a meal at a local restaurant and sometimes pay for their meal. Well we weren’t expecting to find the exact treatment however we have walked into almost every church and we were never greeted by the pastor and barely had anyone really show any interest in who we are or anything about us. We have only had one church that has really reached out to us but that interest has mostly come from the pastor. We are finding that most of these churches don’t really care if we are there among them but don’t want to reach out to include anyone else in their “group”. I think we are going to have a few more months of searching and may have to drive a little distance to find the church (with our religious convictions) and a sincere group of believers to fellowship with here in our new hometown. This has been a real eye opening experience for us and I have shared this story with our home church and thanked them for reaching out to visitors and continue to do so.

  18. says

    Thom, going to share this tonight at my leadership meeting with team leaders and directors to encourage them that we are working at the right things! What you give us pastors here is a great encouragement and added tool for us to lead our people. Thanks.

  19. Matt says

    Dr. Rainer, I am curious about the lack of clearly identified guest parking. Do you think that guests want their own parking, or do most not want to be singled out that way? We are a new church plant, and I am working through this issue for when we get up and running with public worship services in the near future. Thanks!

    • Thom Rainer says

      Matt – Most guests prefer guest parking. Those who don’t will simply park in the regular spots. I am in the latter group when I visit a church.

      • Matt says

        Thank you so much for the response, and the great article. I will make sure I work on this for when we are up and running.

        • Torie N Pendleton says


          If I may add, Moms with children and no one accompanying them usually LOVE guest parking. It is hard to carry two or three young children and a baby through the parking lot by yourself.



    • jonathon says

      More important than guest parking, is handicapped parking that can be used by those with accessibility needs.
      Ideally, it can hold between five and ten paratransit vehcles used by the local transit agency, with people getting on/off at the same time, and not interfering with other vehicles, passengers, or pedestrians.

      Whilst on a11y issues, have a tour of your facility by somebody who is:
      * In a wheelchair;
      * Blind;
      * Deaf;
      *Uses a walker;
      Fix all problems, and issues that they encounter.

  20. Eric Robertson says

    I feel as though this just makes the church seem like a big seeker friendly initiative to join some cool faddish club.

  21. says

    Great list! I’ve visited about 100 of the largest churches in the country this year and am amazed at how difficult it is to find the church office sometimes.

    I’d love to see a series of posts like this. Common mistakes that impact church members, mistakes that impact “transplanting” visitors coming from other churches and mistakes that impact visitors that are in-churched.

  22. Will says


    I have extremely benefited from your books and blog posts. As a result, I have implemented much of your principles laid out in “Simple Church” and the response has been wonderful. Our new mission is to Love God (Sunday morning worship), Grow in faith (Small Groups), and serve others (Ministry Teams). I did have a quick question, and it relates somewhat to number five in the post above. In implementing our simple three fold model for discipleship I feel there is still a lack of solid biblical teaching that small groups can’t fill. While I believe wholheartedly that small groups create a wonderful place for relationship building and a sense of community, I don’t know if it will develop a venue for good solid teaching that could come through say a wednesday or Sunday night teaching class. Do you have any helpful suggestions? Do you think adding a weekly Bible class for our congregation would be too much? Do you think small groups alone can accomplish the goal of laying a solid biblical foundation for the church? Thanks for taking the time to respond, you’re so appreciated!

    • Thom Rainer says

      Will: I wish I could give you a precise response, but the type of questions you are asking could only be answered if I knew your context more fully.

  23. Barb Love says

    The least friendly church we ever visited was on in which NO none greeted us. We had to stop someone to ask where our children were to go for Sunday School, Then the pastor taught the adult class, led the singing, led the choir, preached a sermon (we expected him to also collect the offering! )), and he was the ONLY one who spoke to us after the service. Needless to say we never went back!

    The eleven points listed are OK for large churches, but the average small town church does not need some of them. However friendliness and whatever one can do to welcome visitors is key!

  24. says

    That’s a great list. Definitely see some issues we need to work on. Perhaps the biggest mistake is that we spend so much energy fighting about worship and music styles we don’t have anything left to even see, much less correct, these common mistakes. Our society and our churches tend to make one issue, any issue, (not just worship and music), so paramount in our lives, a pet peeve, so to speak, that we fail to see other obvious mistakes we need to address.
    Love “I Am s Church Member.” Thanks.
    Brad Holmes

  25. Hal says

    Everybody is calling for pastors who don’t do social media to do so. But there are some very significant drawbacks, a couple of which have been mentioned already on this post (and comments). 1) Distracting 2) Time consuming 3) Discovering things about your members you would rather have remained blissfully ignorant of 4) Gateway for unsolicited smut

    There are always tradeoffs. I have found the enumerated minuses to be much more weighty than the plusses of being “out there where the people are” (in cyberspace).

  26. says

    Church members and regular attenders who sit next to an aisle and use space for items are signaling that they do not to share the pew with anyone else. This is particularly a problem in small churches where an individual or family will claim a pew and will show various signs of agitation or even hostility if a stranger seeks to invade their territory. In older churches a family may have occupied the same pew for several generations. The problem, however, is not confined to small churches. The problem has a long history. In the days when churches supported themselves from pew rents and horse stall pews were common, families actually put padlocks on pews. Those who could afford to rent a pew were forced to sit (if they had the foresight to bring a stool with them) or stand in the aisles.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Kevin: Pew Research’s most recent data indicates 37% of Americans attend church at least weekly and another 33% attend about once a month. If we then conservatively estimate that 40% of a population of 314 million attend church in a given week, that means over 125 million people are in church services each week. Some people still want to attend church.

  27. says

    It is crucial in today’s society to make families aware of the fact that your nursery attendants and children’s workers have all been background checked. List this in your advertisements, your Sunday program and from the platform. This shows a sign of excellence, integrity, follow-through and the value placed on children. I think churches should go as far as posting documentation at the Children’s ministry entrance that certifies that each children’s worker on duty at that time is qualified and trained and has had a thorough background check.

  28. says

    Great list, Thom. Thanks especially for including #s 4 & 5. while I agree in principle with number 5, I also think pastors need to train and then trust their small group leaders as shepherds of the group. That’s not to say the senior pastor and staff do not know what groups are studying and doing (Proverbs 27:23). Some pastors know and do very little in regard to groups, and that is indeed dangerous. But some swing the pendulum the other way and do not allow their equipped shepherds to lead the sheep entrusted to them. At some point trust the shepherds you have equipped and trust the Holy Spirit to guide them.

  29. says

    I’d love to help with web design. I’m a church planter, author, conference speaker… in addition to running my design biz… so I totally understand what ministries are looking for!

  30. says

    Thom, thank you. Wow, I felt pretty good until parking and clearly marks entry points came up. Something to work through. Thank you for a Pastor who seeks to be a better communicator at every avenue.

  31. Scott Andrews says

    Not posting times of services anywhere on their signs. How is a potential visitor to know what time to show up? I’ve found this one to be the most common, most overlooked, and most easily fixable.

  32. Joe Ragan says

    As a missionary who recently was on Stateside, I visited many churches across the US. On several occasions I tried to visit church websites to learn about their congregations, etc. Many still do not have websites or they are so out of date that they are irrelevant. Also, on several sites, I could not find their address or service times.

    • says

      It’s unreal how so many pastors devalue or don’t understand internet marketing, which, of course, starts with a professional website.

      People will or won’t visit a church due to a well or poorly designed site.

  33. Mark S. says

    Thom, while serving as the Involvement Minister for a medium-size church, I attempted to use your book – recommended by another minster friend of mine who said it was a must have. Unfortunately, as is the case in many problems with the church (any), leadership or the lack thereof, is usually the root for all the issues you shared.

    I have left the ministry due to leadership because they thought visitors and the issues to be inviting to them, were for one ministry leader and not the members themselves. They also felt the members were more important.

    Since I left the town and ministry where this occurred, I have visited many churches and most have the same problem – we are all so wrapped up in our own life we forget to be inviting, genuine and loving – AT church and then we fail to follow up and stay in “gentle” contact.

    The culture, not just in churches but in the world, has shifted from a “we” to a “me” and from “love your neighbors as yourself” to “what about me?” mentality. I’m afraid we (including the church), have forgotten what the love of God means and how to show it. The Lord’s church will not grow until we return to a loving, service, mind-set. Maybe we forgot how because we forgot, don’t see or don’t believe the love of God that was so amazingly shared BY God to and for us.

    We all need a refresher from the hymn, “None of self and ALL of Thee”.

    JOY = “J”esus first, “O”thers second and “Y”ourself last.

    To HIM be the Honor, Glory and Praise forever.

  34. Jodi says

    Loved your final impression: “Failure to have adequate restroom facilities.” This should have been number one (tee-hee) on your list, in my opinion, because there is no worse impression than a bad restroom. Unless it is a bad first impression because someone forgot to proofread their writing’s first impression: “Failure to have a informative, easy-to-use website.” Really now! Use the article “an” before a word that begins with a vowel sound. For example, “… an informative, easy-to-use website.”

  35. Wally says

    Thom, The list is really good but I have a concern about # 2. I realize that I am from another world but I do not engage in Facebook, or twitter or any other social platforms. Our church had a face book page but had to take it down due to the content that continually showed up from unrelated “friends” linking to posted items and then inappropriate comments that had nothing to do with the original post. I had a personal Facebook page once for about 2 minutes and was overwhelmed by 60 plus hits in that time. Most of what I see placed on my wife’s and daughters pages is usually TMI and serves no purpose. Do you really feel that it is that beneficial and necessary? I have seen so much damage done by posts and not well thought out tweets that I fail to see the benefit to ministry. I cannot see how what I am doing right now or in a few minutes is of any interest to others. Help me see the light.

    • says

      Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. are critical for the church today. In fact, they are an end-time gift… brilliant communication tools developed by the world that can be use for Kingdom purposes. I am continually connecting with new people who are provoked by my status updates and who are intrigued by our Facebook ads. Same with Twitter. The high majority of our visitors come because of Facebook, in fact.

      You have to post often… many times a day… and build a following. Then, simply post what God is burning in your spirit and others will be excited to connect with you!

    • says

      There are ways to control who sees Facebook groups, and a Facebook page has to have someone serving as an administrator. We have multiple “groups” that serve our partners, ministry teams and leadership well. And we have a public page with which we’ve had no problem.

  36. says

    I’m a military wife and also a pastor’s wife. I have been in churches in 4 different states in a variety of denominations. In my (limited) experience, your list doesn’t cover the things that drove us away from the churches we intentionally left. First on my list would be a pastoral staff that is unable/unwilling to actually connect with their people…including staff. Second would be “control freak” head pastors who don’t allow the staff that they hire to do the jobs they are hired to do. Third would be a too-narrow focus…intentional ministry to the unsaved/unchurched, to the detriment of the mature believer that keeps said church in motion, leading to a revolving-door membership and staff.

    • says

      Shouldn’t “mature” believers be most concerned about the unchurched/unsaved? And they should be able to feed themselves and establish ministries dedicated to helping them continue to grow and minister. The fact that the church is drawing in unchurched people automatically provides opportunities for the truly “mature”.

  37. D. Boudreaux says

    What about bad grammar on websites or communications? As you write, “Failure to have a [sic] informative website…” should also include “Failure to demonstrate a grasp of proper usage of the English language.”

  38. Hope says

    I must respectfully disagree with #6. My husband has had double hip replacement, so we make a special effort to get to the auditorium early so we can get an aisle seat, where he is more able to stretch his legs into the aisle. It is difficult for him to sit for an hour or more in an uncomfortable position. It is awkward when the usher asks us to move down for latecomers when we made the special effort to get there not only on time, but early. Maybe if we are going to allow special parking spots for visitors, we could also allow special rows in the auditorium for visitors.

  39. Jodi says

    Another thing that drives people away are church members who lecture people if you haven’t been to church in awhile. Don’t lecture me and the church has my contact info. If someone is concerned, pick up the phone if you really care but don’t fire away with “where have you been?”. Churches should discourage that type of behavior and instead, keep it to a simple “good to see you again. Hope all is well”

  40. Barry Snead says

    Thom, I appreciate your list. It is very good. Just wanted to refer to #6 about members being conscious of visitors when it comes to seating. A few years ago much of our extended family returned to my Father-in-Law’s church he had pastored many years ago as he was invited to preach their Homecoming Service. So, the ten or so of us sat on the second row in front of the pulpit, sitting together as a family. Along came an older woman who said, “Excuse me, but this is where our family sits.” I didn’t “talk back” to her but we all simply got up and moved. We had been there early to get good seats. The church was now full and we ended up on the back row of the balcony with three of us sitting on the steps. And, of course, the church recognized us as the preacher’s family and we all stood up. I don’t even know if the lady and family at the front could even see WHO we were! Probably not! This was the worst case I have experienced of members actually asking visitors to move. There were also 2 pastors and 2 Ministers of Music in our family group. I can imagine the sermon illustrations that came on later occasions!

  41. Joanne says

    My husband and I both grew up in fundamentalist independent Baptist churches. My husband became a youth pastor and was an assistant pastor for 24 years. When his position was eliminated due to financial difficulties at the church, we found ourselves looking for a church for the first time in our lives. We visited over 30 churches in our search for a new church family. I wish I could have had a form like a “mystery shopper” and be a “mystery visitor” and hand the pastor an evaluation form at the end of our visit to let him know what things attracted us to the church and what things drove us away, never to return. Some people in churches were so cold, stared at us as if we had a third eye, asked us to move from the unmarked handicapped section (as if we knew it was the handicapped section), walked around with coffee, told us to help ourselves to coffee, but never told us where it was. I made it a mission to see how people at the Information station would handle visitors. Some totally ignored me. When I asked where the church bulletin was, they just pointed, but never said anything. My husband filled out a visitor card which was supposed to be dropped off at the visitor center after church. He had to stand and wait while the visitor booth attendant had a detailed conversation with her friend. We received visitor packets with no visitor card to fill out. In one church, the pastor even said from the pulpit, “I don’t think we will pass out visitor cards today.” That makes you feel wanted for sure. We had no idea how to find out all the churches that were in our area because not all churches advertise in the yellow pages, or have a website. It just so happened that we had a terrible snowstorm on a Sunday during our church search. The local news posted all the church closings for that Sunday so I created a spreadsheet from the list and that was the only way we even found out some of the churches even existed. In one church a little old lady stood at the end of the pew and waited. When I asked if I was sitting in her pew, she said, “Oh no, I’ll just sit back here.” AWKWARD!! One small church had one bathroom for both men and women to use. It was right beside the sanctuary. I noted that if we ever returned to take care of any “potentially volatile situations” at home. Only one pastor ever called and even asked if there was something he could pray about for our family. He prayed with me right then on the phone. It meant so much. It took us over a year and a half to finally find a church. I think God allowed us to go through all that mess so we would know just how horrible it is to be a visitor at times. I hope I make people feel welcome in our church and help them find a small group in which to be involved and find a group of friends and a place to worship, which is the whole purpose of finding a church.

    • Torie says

      Oh My! Joanne, I had the exact same idea about the Mystery Shopper thing for churches. Maybe you and I should start a business!

      I have had some of the exact same experiences over the last 6 years, no lie. And all I ever thought was … “wow, I sure am glad I am already saved because if I was a lost person, I would NEVER step foot in a church.”

      It is a shame! Nothing more that unadulterated sin and pride! I praise Him for leading us to relief at our new church and pray that I will always remember how it felt to be on the outside!

      For the record, we are military and have no choice but to visit and change churches often.



      • Joanne says

        Torie, I was hoping I was the only one that had gone through these problems. I agree with what you said and feel that if I was not saved and looking for a church, I might not ever set foot in a church again after all the things I’ve seen. Christians need to make an effort to step out of their comfort zone, have more than “foyer friendships,” and reach into the lives of visitors to whet their appetite for Christ, the church (God’s plan for His people), and teach them how to reach the lost.

  42. Tome Moore says

    So doesn’t Jesus have anything to do with church at all? Is success of his church measured by a bunch of marketing hype, tweets and twits, and doing everything possible to meet the whims of self-centered pseudochristians. Isn’t there some tiny place for the Holy Spirit to work in church growth? Is there anyone left out there who is part of church to please God or in obedience to Christ?

    As I thought some more about your list I realized that the church I am ministering to at the moment near Gundlepet India meets one of your requirements. They have very adequate restroom facilities. There are at least 100 acres of open field behind the village and they even have a few trees to shield us westerners as we do our business.

    Tom Moore
    Elk City Baptist Church

  43. Elizabeth says

    Some of these suggestions (parking lot greeters, for example) could be the basis for a new post – “How to Make an Introvert Run for Cover. “

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