When we travel and look for a place to visit we always go to the web. I think about how times change. Years ago we would look in a book, yellow pages, or newspaper to find a place to worship. Today we just look at websites. The basic things that I look for:
- Worship Times – When do you meet and how many clicks do I have to make to find this.
- Address – can I find your address on your page easily? Most pages you can’t.
- The overall look of the page – does it look old or outdated or current
- The about us section – how do you describe yourself. How you describe yourself tells me if I want to visit you.
There is a recent study on what 18-24 year old’s want in a website. Here is what they found:
- Students often judge sites on how they look. But they usually prefer sites that look clean and simple rather than flashy and busy. One user said that websites should “stick to simplicity in design, but not be old-fashioned. Clear menus, not too many flashy or moving things because it can be quite confusing.”
- College students avoid Web elements that they perceive as “unknown” for fear of wasting time.
- When students want to learn about a company, university, government agency, or non-profit organization they turn to search engines to find that organization’s official website not Facebook.
- Students prefer websites that are easy to scan and don’t intimidate them with a wall of gray text.
Dana and I are vacationing again and so we got to visit another church. When you visit places you see things that you never notice and can often overlook at home. Today the church we visited was great. The ushers did a wonderful job. We were traveling with family and arrived at separate times. When we walked into the auditorium the usher walked up to me, called me by name, and pointed me to our family. Now that is a great usher!
This church has a slogan, “The Personal Difference”. They talk about the personal difference Jesus makes, the church makes, and how they want to help make a difference in your life. They had a peel and stick rose that was not just a sticker but an embroidered rose. It was nice. This little rose sticker could be worn by visitors instead of the “Hello my name is” stickers (I never wear these because they are too tacky). Dana loved the rose and wore it the rest of the day as it went with her outfit.
In the bulletin they had a shut in of the week with their address. The good is that they individually highlight someone who may be forgotten and people can send them a card, pray specifically for them, and visit them. The bad is that anyone who is not so good has the name and address of a venerable person.
The bathrooms were nice. My wife kept talking about them. You may think facilities and decor don’t communicate anything but talk to women and they will tell you it does. All the ladies with us talked about the warm feeling and how nice things were.
The only negative was a member who gave the Lord’s supper devotional. I think he thought about what he wanted to say, wrote down a few notes, but never went over it. It reminded me of when I first began speaking. I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to say only to ramble and stumble over myself. He also qualified everything he said. This church bragged that they were a conservative church in their “about us” section on their website. He couldn’t say anything without qualifying his remarks so all knew he was sound (ie. During the Christmas season not that I or anyone here celebrate it or think it is a special day). I can imagine a non-church visitor being confused. He also made some snide comments about those who only come to church during the Christmas season and those churches who only take the Lord’s supper during Christmas and Easter.
I couldn’t help but to think about how we treat our guest back home and help them. What they think when we qualify our words and they have no idea why and then have more questions that don’t have to do about Jesus, and what our facilities communicate to people.
This is the last post of reflections I have on our recent trip. On Sunday morning we went to a service that I really enjoyed. The song service was great, the minister had a great message, and even though it was 90 minutes it went by really fast. But the one thing I noticed was that the students in the room seemed dis-engaged.
My first thought was no matter where you go this remains the same. I couldn’t quit looking and being reminded of our students back home. The look of why am I here or I could really care less. Out of a section of 20 or more students setting in the corner I only saw one sing. The songs were contemporary not filled with thee or thou. The message was relevant. But there they were totally dis-engaged.
I couldn’t help but to think how do we connect students and engage them in the auditorium?
One of the churches we visited on this trip had some baptisms. This is always exciting to see but something was different here that I really liked. Here is what they did different from what I am used to seeing
1. They explained to people who may not know what they believed about baptism. It was simple, short, and helped everyone know what they were witnessing.
2. They had the family and friends of the people being baptized stand. They recognized their contribution in helping the person come to faith.
3. They explained who the person was and their story. I loved this. It gave us in the crowd who didn’t know the person insight and made us feel connected to them.
4. There was joy in the atmosphere. People in the crowd were beaming, the person baptizing them had a joy and excitement on their face that was electric. One girl being baptized was crying and gave a big hug afterwards. One guy threw his arms in the air afterwards and looked to his family and friends with a great big smile on his face. Another just had a big smile that wouldn’t come off his face.
I didn’t know any of these people but I couldn’t help but to be moved by the joy, excitement, and energy that was in the room. I have been many places where baptism where so sacred and holy that there was no room from anyone to be excited or it might ruin the holy somber. But this is one of the most exciting events that can ever take place so why don’t we celebrate like it is?
I am on vacation this week and that means I get to visit other churches. As a minister this is a rare experience so I love when I get to do it. Yesterday we noticed the power of greeters. We went to two churches and they had different styles. The first church had greeters at the door. One man is a first time ballot hall of fame greeter. This guy had IT. When he said hello and talked to you, you felt special. I wanted to give him a hug after talking to him for 30 seconds. After we made it passed him there was another greeter who just said hello.
The second church had greeters inside the auditorium. They went up and down the aisle talking to people once they had sat down. I really liked this because this is the time that you can fell awkward when visiting. It is like eating lunch in junior high when you don’t have a lunch crew. You feel alone and isolated. They had people who were very comfortable meeting people and carrying conversations.
The one thing I notice when I visit is what it feels like when you don’t know anyone or where to go. You become the outsider and not the insider. As we sat at the first church no one really talked to us. We had about 3 minutes till worship but it was awkward feeling. We felt like the kid who got 10 pimples the first day of going to a new school. The second church the greeters working the auditorium helped connect people to each other. Have you attended here before was her first question to everyone. She talked to the people around them and got them talking to each other. We were really early for this service and it was nice.
What have you experienced?