Secret Thoughts Of A First-Time Church Visitor

alone desert church visitor

By Susan M. Clabaugh

Did you see me on Sunday?

I walked into your church and looked around, wondering where to go. I saw lots of people eating donuts and drinking coffee, but no one greeted me. I stood there not knowing where to go or what to do until finally one of the pastors came up to me. He asked me to do the usual.

By “the usual” I mean what every church has asked me to do when I visited them: Fill out a piece of paper with all of my information and hand me a “gift” from the church. Then I’m directed to the sanctuary where I can sit anywhere.

All by myself.

After I filled out the form I was directed to the sanctuary, where I sat at the end of a row. I put the “gift” beside me and just looked around. There were people having conversations, but no one noticed me.

This is usually what takes place.

I was there for some time before a man sat in front of me and turned around to introduce himself. He was nice, but he didn’t talk long and I was alone again.

I have yet to go to a church where a member asks me to join them in their row and sit with them so I’m not sitting alone as a visitor. I wonder why this is in a Christian community.

However, when I was a member of a church I never considered taking these kinds of initiatives to make visitors feel welcomed. Now that I’m actively seeking a new church family I’m sharing my experiences because none of us can change what we don’t know.

So what is it that churches don’t know about people visiting?

Some of your visitors are Christians and some aren’t. Either way, they are people searching for something. Searching for a place to belong. Searching for a place to worship. Searching for a family to walk alongside them. Searching for a place to sense God’s love.

Note the last part. It is the most important thing I will say: His love. The most important thing any church can convey to visitors is God’s love. Here are a few ways to do that.


Make sure there are greeters at the door. The first impression people get of your church is the moment they walk through your door. It’s as simple as genuinely saying something like, “Welcome to our church! We’re glad you’re here! Can I help you find anything?”

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