FYI, Your Church Smells Weird.

March 7, 2016

Every home has a smell. It’s a fact. In your home, the combination of your diet, detergents, candles, perfumes, and pets, etc. all combine to make a unique fragrance that belongs to you and your family. The first time visitors comes to your house, or even hangs out with you, they notice it.

What a Visitor Smells at Church

Photo by John Hyun / CC BY

Photo by John Hyun / CC BY

Do you remember the first time you went to your church? Do you remember the smell? I don’t want to beat this analogy to death, but, just like your home, your church smells the way it does because of the culture: The way it’s cleaned, the food your members bring, the perfume people wear, and the coffee they drink.

When someone is new to your church they recognize this smell, and it’s weird to them. It’s weird to them because they don’t know how the smell got there. They don’t know where to get the coffee. They don’t know what they are supposed to wear. They don’t know how to navigate the building or where to sit.

We take this for granted at our churches. We’ve been at our churches so long that we don’t notice the smell anymore. We know where to get coffee, where to park, how to dress, when to stand, and when to sit. Let’s just be honest here: Even if you have a “laid-back” or “casual-church,” you still have a church culture. In that sense, there really is no such thing as a church that newcomers are going to be automatically comfortable in. The key to overcoming this obstacle is Hospitality.

Incomplete Hospitality

Hospitality is about more than just making sure your guests are greeted at the door. Imagine if you had a visitor in your home and you greeted them at the door, everyone in your family told them hello and was really friendly to your guest, but no one told them where the bathroom was or helped them get something to drink or eat. Imagine no-one invited them to sit. Instead, you just let the guest walk around your house.

Lots of churches take this approach. In his book Fusion, Nelson Searcy says first-time guests make up their minds about a church in seven minutes. They make up their minds based on hospitality (atmosphere and friendliness), not worship or not theology, he elaborates. Think about this: Before the average visitor even has a chance to see your sanctuary, they have already decided if yours is a church they would come back to.

Be Intentional With Visitors

Are you intentional about being hospitable in your church? If I were to visit your church who would help direct me? Would I be able to get coffee? Who would help me find a seat?

This week, try and remember what it was like the first time you went to your church. Did someone help you? What is one thing you can change this week to help your church be more hospitable?

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