Is Our Church ‘User Friendly’?

One of the “buzz words” used to sell computers in the early ‘90’s was “user friendly.”  As a relatively new hand with computers at the time, the term made sense to me.  Computers are certainly complicated enough that anyone sitting down at the keyboard for the first time will be intimidated unless the computer can offer choices in easy and clear language (or they have an 8-year-old sitting nearby).

Several years ago at a Presbytery meeting, a guest speaker from one of the most rapidly growing churches in the United States spoke on evangelism and church growth.  Although he did not use those exact words, in essence he challenged us to ask ourselves if our church is “User Friendly.”  If a stranger walks into our worship service do they feel immediately comfortable and at home, or is their experience more like that of sitting down at a strange computer and not knowing what to do next as everyone else whips through a familiar routine?

One of our goals is to be a warm, welcoming, “user friendly” fellowship.  This must be true if we want to grow, but it also must be true if we want to experience being Christ’s Church. “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

What should a user-friendly church look like?  The following are a few of the ideas I picked up at that meeting and a few I have added since then.  I hope that you will think of additional insights and offer them to the Worship Committee or other appropriate committees as suggestions of how we may improve our service and welcoming.

  •  Ushers and Greeters welcome all worshipers with a smile and greeting.
  • The church has signs so that worshippers can easily locate the Sanctuary, Nursery, Bathrooms, etc.
  • Greet visitors seated next to you as they arrive.  During the welcome time introduce visitors to someone else.  After the service invite visitors to attend the coffee hour.  Lead the way and introduce the visitor to others.  Each and every one of us should do this, but even if others don’t we will be more friendly if you do.
  • Often the worship service may seem to be in “code” to people who have not attended many services, or were raised in a different tradition.  Although we have simplified the language in our bulletin, names like “Gloria Patri and Doxology” sound like another language (and they are.)  If you notice a neighbor who seems apprehensive or uncomfortable, offer to answer any questions.  If the person next to you can’t find a hymn, offer your hymnal and use another for yourself.  If your neighbor has children, you might tell him/her about the children’s time and that all children are welcome to go up. 
  • We are a friendly church, but often this means that during the fellowship hour we “hang out” with our circle of friends.  To be “user friendly” we need to be more aware of those who are left out and invite them into our circles. 
  • Invite visitors to other church activities like our Choir, one of our study and fellowship groups, or the Community Kitchen.  During the week call the person to remind him/her you are looking forward to seeing him.  If you didn’t get the visitor’s phone number during the service, call the church office and if they put it on the attendance pad we will give it to you.

Being “user friendly” is not the task of the pastor or even the session.  It is the responsibility of each and every one of “God’s frozen people.” 

David Hunter