4 Things I Learned Visiting Other Churches On My Sabbatical

IMG_2365During the first quarter when I was on sabbatical from my church, I visited 15 other churches. I am a firm believer that leaders need to be continual learners; and you can learn from anybody!  Sometimes it’s what to do, sometimes what not to do, but if you have a teachable spirit, you can learn something. I learned a lot of things during my visits, but I want to share four big ones with you today.

1. It is VERY obvious when a church is ready for and expecting guests, and when they are not.

This should be (and will be) a whole separate post, but let me just say that as a guest, I can tell when you’re expecting me.  One of the churches I visited had a First Impressions team and system in place that was outstanding – the best I’ve ever seen.  Another one… not so much.  They acted surprised that I had come and didn’t really know what to do with me.  Ouch.

2. Parking is important.

Self explanatory I hope, but if there’s not adequate parking, and I’m driving around and around and around, that’s not a great sign that you’re expecting guests.  A principle I’ve taught to small group leaders is to always have an empty chair in the room when your group meets.  That way, if a guest comes in a little late, there’s no awkwardness of them not having a chair.  Rest assured, they won’t be back.  It also serves as a reminder to the people in the group that we’re always expecting guests – a great thing to keep in mind.

3. Signage is even more important.

One church I went to didn’t have clear signage on what door to enter in for the service.  I went to one door – locked.  Another door – locked. Finally I saw someone going in a third door, and I went in that one with them.  Nothing wrong with locking doors you want people not to go in, but put a sign on it! And maybe even direct them to the right door 🙂

4. A variety of teaching styles, music genres, and models can all be used to communicate the message of Jesus.

I went to uber traditional churches, uber contemporary churches, and everything in between.  Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, non-denominational, Calvinist, Armenian – and you know what?  All of them worshipped God.  All of them talked about Jesus.  And in all of them, I worshipped.  Some more easily than others – I do have preferences just like you do – but if you focus on the content and the heart, all that other stuff can take a back seat if you work at it.

Have you been to a church other than your regular one lately? What did you notice that others could learn from?