When building websites, web developers always take into consideration the “user experience,” often abbreviated “UX.” User experience is the idea of looking at how easily a website’s visitor can understand and use the site. It involves analyzing everything from aesthetics to functionality and seeing how it contributes to a positive UX.
Churches have much in common with websites. Website owners try to obtain new visitors to their sites, and the site’s developers work hard to come up with a design that invites the visitors to return. Central to effective UX is having a design that is inviting but doesn’t interfere with the site’s content.
Likewise, churches seek out new visitors (or at least they should). Furthermore, they want their visitors to have a positive experience and return. To do this, churches should work hard to create an environment that invites visitors in but does not interfere with the gospel message. What this looks like will vary with each church, community, and culture. However, there are certain things every church can and should do that will contribute to a positive UX for their visitors.
Here are nine things your church should do to improve your visitor’s user experience.
1. Don’t single out visitors.
Sadly, there are some churches that still ask visitors to draw attention to themselves by standing up or raising their hands. This public self-identification turns visitors off from the church. Visitors, however, often prefer to observe quietly and get a feel for things. Those who wish to identify themselves will do so without the need for risking public embarrassment.
2. Provide well-maintained and staffed newborn and toddler education areas.
Some places call them nurseries or child-care services (but that’s a whole other issue). Whatever you call it, make sure it is well-maintained, organized, clean, and staffed with skilled teachers (not just babysitters). Furthermore, be certain that there are no broken toys or unsafe furniture. Also, ensure that the room isn’t cluttered.
3. Welcome visitors, but do not swarm them or ignore them.
Just as visitors don’t want to be publicly called out (see above), they also don’t want to be surrounded by a ton of people. Even worse, they do not want to be ignored. Rather, they should be welcomed to the church with a friendly smile and a handshake. It’s even okay to ask their first name. Here’s a good script, “Hi, welcome to [church name]. I’m [your name], and you are? Well, it’s good to see you, [name], we’re glad you’re here.” Simple, warm, and inviting.
4. Have knowledgeable, friendly greeters ready to answer whatever question visitors have.
Sad to say it, but the truth is you don’t want just anyone welcoming visitors. Some people are too gruff, not morning people (or haven’t had their coffee), or for whatever reason would not be ideal as a greeter. Instead, you want friendly people who are trained in how to greet people and know enough to answer just about any question a visitor may have about the church.
5. Make information available, but don’t overload them with it.
This is an often overlooked aspect of a visitor’s user experience. Visitors appreciate information about the church, types of services, small groups, etc. They often will seek it out, especially if they feel welcome. So, make it available to them. You can use an information kiosk, bulletin, or a combination of these to make church info readily available. And if you use a kiosk, make sure it’s fully stocked with the most updated information.
6. Give visitors space to take it all in.
Visiting a church can be an overwhelming experience. One way to ease the stress is to let visitors have their space. Welcome them, make information available, but let them have space. That doesn’t mean ignore them. Rather, it means don’t constantly approach them, asking how they are, etc. Let them have time to look around, explore, and take everything in.
7. Invite them back.
Do I really need to say this? Of course I do. Too many churches forget to invite visitors to come back. Some that do, though, go about it ineffectively by giving visitors a full service schedule. A polite, “I’d love to see you next week, [name],” suffices.
8. Have a church member follow up.
I’ve written on this before, but I’ll reiterate it here: have regular church members follow up with visitors first; not the staff, and not the pastor. Doing this conveys a more friendly church rather than one doing church business (staff or the pastor calling can often be seen as them just doing their jobs). And please, please, please, do not send them spam emails, texts, or pre-recorded voice mails. That will help ensure they never return.
And finally, the Golden Rule of how to deal with visitors:
9. Treat them better than you want to be treated when you’re a visitor.
However you would want to be treated if you visited a church, treat your visitors better than that.
If you follow these nine tips then you’ll find visitors will have a much better user experience and the chance of them returning will be significantly higher.
I’m sure there are other things your church can do to make visitors feel welcome and appreciated. What advice would you offer? What have you seen churches do wrong when it comes to visitors? Comment below and be sure to share!