-- Signage and information. Recently my wife and I were in a mall we had never visited. The first thing we did was go to a sign that had all the stores and their locations on it. Even small churches can be intimidating to first-time guests. Do you have adequate signage throughout the facilities? Is there an obvious information booth or table? Members know where to go; guests don't.

-- Worship seating. First-time guests desire to find a place to sit as quickly as possible. They feel awkward otherwise. Is your worship center more than 80 percent full? If so, the guests perceive it is completely full. Are your members trained to move to the middle of pews or seat rows so guests don't have to climb over them? Are their ushers or greeters available to lead guests to seats?

It Is Important

When a guest has a good experience, he or she is more likely to return. When they return they are more likely to hear about and experience the love of Christ.

When I was a pastor of a church with 70 in worship attendance, we decided to do something about our deplorable restrooms. We had a workday and almost half the church showed up. People donated materials, labor and even toilets. At the end of the day, we had some of the nicest and cleanest restrooms in town.

I don't know how closely it's related, but our attendance bumped up to 90 immediately and never went back in my tenure. Maybe it was the church working together. Maybe it was the community observing the unity of the church. Or maybe we just had clean restrooms.
It is that important.

Thom S. Rainer is president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. This column first appeared on his website, www.ThomRainer.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Publication date: July 6, 2012