Sharpen your church's image

It is easy to become so comfortable in your surroundings that you no longer notice them. What does your church look like? What kind of impression do services make on visitors? Here are nine things you can do most of them are free to present a clean, crisp image that will make people want to visit your church again and again.

Chad McComas is pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Astoria, Oregon.

 

Do you consider your church to be sharp—on the ball? Can you take as much pride in it as you would like? Even a church that presents a very professional image can find some areas in which it can improve. You can move your church along the scale from being a good church to being a sharp church.

And don't worry that dollar signs are peering around every turn ahead. The following nine hints require little money or time. Most of the suggestions concern carrying out your church's functions in a professional way.

1. Polish platform performance.

Our church services will be more professional as those who lead the congregation take their duties more seriously. For instance, whoever will present the Scripture reading should read the passage over several times so that he can read well during the service. Preparation will help him read with greater feeling and will help prevent him from stumbling over the passage.

Whoever is to present the morning prayer needs to think about what he is going to say ahead of time. He should consider which members in the church need to be mentioned in that prayer. All of the members will be inspired by a prayer that incorporates both feeling and meaning. Someone who tries to pray from the top of his head will most likely go through a certain routine of thoughts and sentences that the members hear every week.

The content of the offering appeal also needs attention before it is delivered. The congregation should be informed how the offering is going to be used.

Those sitting up front must also remember their posture and how they look to the congregation. If they are attentive, the congregation will follow suit. But when someone on the platform slouches, with legs spread, and looks around the room in a bored manner, the congregation tends to pay more attention to him than to the speaker and the service. In many churches those on the platform move to seats in the congregation just before the sermon begins. This tends to focus the congregation's attention on the speaker. (And families of those regularly on the platform particularly appreciate this arrangement.)

2. Welcome your visitors.

Too often a church forgets to welcome its visitors in any special way. When a visitor walks into a church and is not greeted or receives a half-hearted welcome, he is likely to think the church is either stale or unfriendly. A hearty greeting from a friendly member speaks of a growing church.

Supplement the welcome in the foyer with a good greeting in the Sabbath school class and in the church service. Try having your church get acquainted with its visitors before the service begins.

Some have them stand and tell who they are and where they are from. This allows the congregation to spot the visitors and place names with the faces. Visitors need to feel you are interested in them and that you are glad for their presence. The more attention you pay to visitors, the more they want to become part of your church.

3. Handle the children's story carefully.

Many churches now have a children's story as part of their weekly service. I would suggest that those that do should not have the children sit on the steps of the rostrum facing the congregation. While the children do look cute sitting up in front, this arrangement presents them with the temptation to wave to the congregation and to look around instead of listening to the story. It is far better for the children to sit on the front pew so that they can face the storyteller and not be distracted or distracting.

4. Explain yourself.

We tend to take our services and practices for granted. We are used to the way we do things and don't think about it, but not so the visitor. He or she can feel totally lost trying to decide what we are talking about or doing.

A sharp church is constantly trying to think as the visitors think; it explains what it is doing. A visitor doesn't know what Investment is, or thirteenth Sabbath, or the ordinance of humility. He isn't aware of where the Sabbath school classes meet or what the Missions Extension Offering is. Much is new and strange to the visitor. A sharp church realizes this and tries to make the visitor feel at home.

5. Survey your foyer.

What does your church foyer look like? Bright, clean, and cheery? Are the walls nicely painted with no handprints? If you have plants, are they alive and healthy? Are stacks of old Reviews and Ingathering materials in the corners?

Is your first impression as you enter the church a positive one? Do you get the idea that this church is concerned about its image? A few nice posters, plants, or fresh flowers can let others know you care about your church. A clean, attractive foyer is a must.

6. Examine your hymnals.

The hymnals in the pews can say much about a church. If they are worn out, torn, and have ragged edges, the visitor may feel he's in a church that's going downhill. If most of the congregation sits in the back, the hymnals there probably show more wear than those in front. Simply exchanging some of those worn hymnals with some from the front will freshen up the area where visitors are likely to sit. Purchase new ones, a few at a time, to replace some of the worst books. See if there are nicer books in other rooms or in the piano bench. You may even want to rebind some of the books. Since a new church hymnal is coming out in 1985, you will probably want to hold off purchasing many books at this time, but replacing the very worst ones may not be a bad idea.

7. Inspect your church sign.

Make a quick check. Is your church sign in good shape? Is it easy to see? Is it freshly painted and clean?

Do you even have a sign? A business without a sign tells you something: Either the owners are not making it or they don't want your business. A church with a professional sign says something also: We are proud of who we are and want you to know it. We want you to come visit us. If your sign needs repair, people who aren't members will likely think you have little to offer. A first-rate sign gives visitors and neighbors a good impression of the church. Signs on the edges of town giving directions to the church add to that good impression.

8. Do a spring cleaning.

Clutter easily piles up in a church. A messy church tells visitors that people don't care much about their church or what others think about it. It says that they don't give their church priority. A sharp church does "spring cleaning" constantly, not allowing things to pile up. Old bulletins are removed from the pews. The windows are clean. The carpet is vacuumed, the chairs in the rooms are orderly, and everything is in its place.

9. Consider your report board.

Many churches have the Sabbath school report board in front of the church. A quick glance usually suggests that the church is dying if the board lists the total membership, along with last week's attendance, and more often than not the attendance numbers one half or less than one half the total membership. You can guess what a visitor thinks when he reads that! Place the report board in a less conspicuous area for those members who can't get along without it, or just list membership and not attendance. Perhaps you will be able to do away with it totally. We want to build our church image, not harm it.

These nine suggestions involve no great difficulty. As you have read them you no doubt have thought of many more simple little things your church can do to sharpen its image. The sharper churches attract visitors. They are the churches that grow. And they grow because people like what they see and want to be part of the congregation. Why not try a few of these hints and turn your good church into a sharper, more professional-appearing church?


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Chad McComas is pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Astoria, Oregon.

October 1984

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