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8 Reasons People Aren’t Coming Back

My friend Greg Atkinson recently wrote an article highlighting 8 reasons people aren’t coming back to your church.  Here are the reasons.  Go read his thoughts, then come back and let’s discuss…

The Front Door

Before a guest ever steps foot on your church’s physical campus, he or she has probably already checked out your church website. What every church should have clearly visible on their homepage is a section or button for first-time guests.

What Stinks?

It’s important that no church ever underestimates the sense of smell. While sight is the strongest sense for short term memory, the sense of smell is the strongest and most vivid for long-term memories. I

Park Here

One of Tim Stevens’ three “growth lids” that he thinks every growing church should have someone who is constantly watching is parking. Tim says, “This is why Visitor Parking is so crucial. If it’s difficult for newcomers to go to your church, they won’t go.”

This Way Parents

One way to assure guests will not return is to have a confusing, long or hard to find process for getting their kids registered and in the right classroom. Wise churches have signs for first-time guest kids’ check-in and make the process quick and painless.

Give It Away

Something subtle, but powerful is a church that has a generous spirit. Chris Hodges at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, AL is big on this. They have a coffee shop, but they also have a designated area where people can get free coffee and not pay anything.

Security Counts

One issue that is huge to a secret shopper and visiting families is security. If a parent is worried about their child’s safety, they will not enjoy the service and will likely not return. A children’s classroom must be clean, safe and secure. Security also includes the check-out process. If anyone can walk into a classroom and pick up a kid, you’re asking for trouble and will turn off potential newcomers.

The Visible Pastor

Accessibility of the senior pastor is another subtle and powerful statement of a church. Even pastors of the largest churches in America make an intentional and strategic effort to be seen, greeted and hugged after a service. They may have a body guard present for security reasons, but they are available and willing to pray with people that need to speak to their pastor.

Finish Strong

It’s simply not enough for greeters and parking lot attendants to say “Hello” or “Welcome” when one walks into their church. To go to another level, have your first impressions team stationed at their posts when the service ends to say “Goodbye” or “Have a nice week”.

Read more of Greg’s thoughts here…  It’s In the Details: 8 Surprising Reasons Why People Aren’t Coming Back | Greg Atkinson.

What do YOU think?  How are you doing on these 8 things?  And in YOUR experience, what has kept people from coming back to YOUR church?



11 Responses to “ “8 Reasons People Aren’t Coming Back”

  1. Peter says:

    I visited a church last weekend that I hear a lot about around here. They did basically all of these things very very well.

  2. Steve Miller says:

    There is no one right way to do church. Christianity is highly adaptable to whatever culture it finds itself in. Among all the world religions only Christianity consistently jumps from continent to continent, Nation to Nation, and culture to culture. It ain’t a program and it isn’t a system, it is a living Person for people to meet. Once we get plugged into God through the Holy Spirit he will help us to be authentic and successful for reaching the world around us.

    For drawing and keeping newcomers we have to maintain God’s truth but share them in relevant attractive ways. Greg’s list is a good one for doing practical hospitality centered contextualization.

    If I would add or emphasize anything it would be the need for clear signage and eye catching graphics. If you are part of a church you know to look for a particular person or familiar face because you know Frank is in charge of children’s ministry, and Carl is the building manager, and Bob can replenish the dwindling coffee. I don’t know how many times I’ve visited a church, asked about a particular resource, and been instructed to hunt down an individual based off of a loose physical description. Give me nametags, signs, maps, pointers, and markers-this is the stuff which becomes background wallpaper ignored by the long time parishioner but is a vital road map for the uninitiated.

    • Barbara says:

      I agree whole heartedly with the signage comments. Even after attending a large church for months it is difficult to know who does what. Also name tags do help. I tend not to speak to people if I can’t remember their names and I know I am not the only one. I have repeatedly heard people at our church say they wished we all had name tags. It is embarrassing to welcome someone as a visitor and find out they have been coming for a year and you still don’t know their name or that they attend.

  3. Barbara says:

    I attend Church of the Highlands and they do all of these things very strongly. Awesome atmosphere in the natural which leads the way for a great time of worship and word.

  4. keith says:

    Hmmmm. no mention of the message? Isn’t that what “church” is all about?

  5. Oliver says:

    this is infuriating! why the heck do you think people are not coming back, simple, either you haven’t pandered to their consumeristic, narcasistic, selfish, need to be entertained enough, or at least enough to mask the spiritually dead, emanciated, spiritually bankrupt church that it is, or perhaps you actually offered the gospel- and they were offended! imagine that!

  6. Come on Oliver … that’s not what the article is saying. What it is saying is that impressions are quick and they are strong.

    How many “bible believing” Christians would go back to a “club” “team” “restaurant” or “hotel” if the service was shoddy and unfriendly?

    I wouldn’t

    Sometimes you can’t get to the meal (message) without having first liked the atmosphere and feel wanted there by the workers.

  7. btw … is there any way to print these articles?

  8. John R. says:

    We have an invisible pastor. He appears at sermon time, and is no where to be found after the last Amen.

  9. Brian says:

    May I add that the Follow-Up is pretty important too. I used to think the church that dropped off pie and a card to first time visitors was over the top but as we as a digital society become more and more distant, I’m starting to change my way of thinking. Our church drops off a bottle of home-made hot sauce and a bag of tortilla chips to every first time visitor. In the process, an email is sent every family from the Children’s Ministry thanking them for coming. Very simple, clean and to the point. Letting people know that their attendance was appreciated can never hurt.

  10. qm says:

    Sad to hear all 10 points are from consumeristic point of view. The Church is a family, not an organization in its core sense. Should we leave a family because there is no parking service available? Why aren’t we thinking from the point of giving and contributing, but all we are thinking from ‘what can we GET from this Church’? Is this really the core values of a Church that Jesus wants us to build?


  1. Staying away from Church in droves… | The More Journal - [...] re-post of an editorial based on why people don’t come back to our churches can be found here. It ...

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