How can you ensure that the building reflects the living church and its vision, and what resources can you provide to help visitors to encounter the living God in it?
If there is more than one entrance, then is the main entrance clearly signposted both from the church path(s) and from any locked entrance doors?
Is the church clean and tidy? If the building is very dark, then could you consider installing a motion-sensitive or timed light?
If your church has toilet facilities, then are they well signposted? If it doesn't, then is there information for visitors about the nearest public toilets or at least about the nearest pub?
It is commonly said that only one in every eight to ten visitors will sign a visitor book, but those who do choose to sign it obviously value the opportunity and many will leave a comment. (On reading back through the visitor book, one village churchwarden discovered that the current generation of teenagers was not the first to shelter in the building during the winter evenings: their parents' comments were to be found in the book from the time when they were teenagers!)
If your church has a Children's Corner then it's important to make sure that the area is clean, that the toys and furniture are safe for use, and that it looks bright and welcoming. Not only does it give small children somewhere to play while their parents look round the church, but it also sends out an important message about how welcome children are in your church.
A leaflet that explains your church's children's work (such as this one) can be another good way of letting visitors know that this is a living church in which children are welcome and valued.
If you have a prayer space, then are there any resources in them that can help children to engage in prayer?
Smart, up-to-date noticeboards can help visitors to understand that this is a living church.
Photographs of key leaders are a reminder that an ancient, empty church building is still used for worship today. They might also help visitors to recognise Christians around the community: one churchwarden has been recognised while working in the community shop, from his photograph on the church noticeboard, providing the opportunity for conversations that might not otherwise have happened.
Information about where this church fits into the wider church family, and about its particular vision/mission, can give visitors an insight into how the Body of Christ works.
Up-to-date publicity for forthcoming events can, together with photographs of recent events, add to the impression of a living, attractive church community.
It is helpful to group different types of information in different locations, so that visitors can easily see which areas might be of interest to them.
Leaflet holders/dispensers can help to keep your selection of leaflets tidy and to make them more noticeable.
Historical information about the church building is of interest to many visitors, but you need to keep reminding them that this is not only a heritage site but also a place of worship, where a living church community gathers in the presence the Almighty, living God. A church guide like this one can help visitors to navigate both the physical and the spiritual space in the building.
Information about church services, groups, events and activities is not only useful to visitors but, again, helps them to understand that this is a living church (this is a simple example from one group of churches in Fosse Deanery). For midweek visitors who might be considering joining you for worship, you might also want to include some information (like this leaflet) about what they can expect at different types of service.
Information about what goes on in the local community and across the Diocese, and about the work of charities that your church supports, can be of interest to visitors and also helps them to gain an impression of the sorts of things that your church considers important. Perhaps there is information about local walks or cycle rides, tourist attractions, pubs and so on that could be included.
Can you set aside even a small area of the church, for resources that help people to pray? See the Prayer Spaces page for some suggestions.
Many visitors would like to make a donation, especially if they have valued their time in your church, and most churches have a donation box of some kind. Make sure that Gift Aid envelopes and pens are conveniently and obviously available near the box. A notice thanking the many visitors who make donations, such as this one, feels more welcoming and can be more effective than a notice simply asking for donations.
You might decide to charge for some resources - e.g. books, postcards, jam - and this is fine if it's done within a context of generous Christian hospitality. But if you ask people to pay for everything, including for example the prayer resources and the church visitor guide, then you are beginning to make quite a different impression on your visitors, and you run the risk that they leave the building with the bad news about church finances rather than the good news about Jesus.
Copyright ©2009-18 Kate Distin. All Rights Reserved.
Website errors to: email@example.com.