It is vital to ensure your visitors feel welcomed when they arrive at your church. Follow these steps to make the perfect first impression.
When people arrive, especially if they’ve never visited before, they want to feel as though their needs are being catered for, within reason! It’s sometimes hard to think about this when you are very familiar with a place so this guide examines a few areas for you to think about to ensure your visitors feel welcomed and experience an enhanced visit.
This guide includes the following topics:
Visit like a stranger
This one can be tricky but the next time you go to your church approach it as though you’ve never visited. Before you’ve even stepped into church consider the following:
- Is your church easy to find when approaching?
- Is it served by public transport?
- Is it accessible by car and if so, is there parking?
- How easy is it for people on foot to arrive?
- Is there somewhere to securely leave a bike?
- Do the grounds look tidy and well kept?
- How accessible is it for people with mobility impairments and/or wheelchair and pushchairs? Think steps, ramps and rails.
- How accessible is it for people with sight or sound difficulties?
- Is there information for visitors if the church is closed to the public?
Your churchyard is a wonderful space and is likely to be used by many different people. Consider:
- Does it look cared for, or is does it give the impression of being unkempt for a reason? Leaving wildflowers to grow as your commitment to caring for God’s acre should be celebrated, but inform visitors about what you are doing too
- Are paths safe, well market and not slippy?
- Is your churchyard well lit?
- Is it litter free and are there bins? If so, are they regularly emptied?
Assume that sometimes your visitors are not going to be able to enter the church. Have you catered for them sufficiently? Is there a welcome sign/notice or noticeboard? Does it clearly inform visitors of the following:
- Days and times you are open
- Service times and other upcoming activities and events
- Contact details
- Access to information about the church’s history or local community – keep it simple and use digital means to allow visitors to explore further
You may want to provide more information but consider what visitors need (and want) to know and prioritise that. Consider what languages you might want to communicate in. Could you place a bowl of water for dogs outside?
Inside your church
Stepping into an unfamiliar church can be a daunting proposition for many people, for many reasons. Make that experience a positive one:
- Could you have an open door?
- Is the church well lit?
- Is it clean and tidy?
- Is there a visitor book?
- Can you play (soft) music?
- Can you offer refreshments or items to buy?
A polite and smiley personal welcome from someone who is easily identifiable as a guide must also be sensitive to each visitor’s needs. Let them choose how they wish to explore but be available to offer your services. However, guides might be unavailable (with other visitors) or your church might be unstaffed. Giving visitors the opportunity to maximise their visit can pay dividends.
Some visitors will want to explore your church on their own, at their own pace, yet still learn about the rich stories of your church. Info Point delivers multimedia content to any mobile device. Adding a church tour is simple.
An interactive floor plan allows visitors to explore each point of interest and engage with your stories. Content can be layered to cater for all of your audiences.
Any signage in your church should be clear and concise. If you are encouraging a visitor to engage with a church tour you need to provoke their interest (you often only have seconds to capture this before they move on), relate it to their experience and reveal something new. The example below is a sign at one of the main points of interest in St Andrew’s Castle Combe. It poses an enticing question about something in front of them and offers to reveal the answer by connecting to the church’s Info Point in two easy steps. The first step is to connect to the Info Point Wi-Fi network, which is completely independent of the internet. The second step is to open the relevant content page. In this instance it reveals why the legs are crossed – but you’ll have to visit to find out why!
The same approach can be applied to the main entrance of a church and outside, to cater for those when the church is closed. Provide an enticing ‘call to action’ and then link the visitor directly to the content. For visitors outside this might be:
- an image gallery or video of what the church looks like inside
- a brief history of the church or its architecture – with the potential for additional pages so visitors can drill down for more content
- about the churchyard
- a PDF to download with information such as a self-guided local walk
- ways to donate
Providing a rich visitor experience and explaining how much it costs to run a church each day/week/year is more likely to elicit a positive response. Especially if you make the process simple. Info Point provides donate buttons that automate this process. Set the amount(s) and text giving is enabled with just one tap of a button.
What are the key things to include on an Info Point sign?
To ensure visitors can easily connect to an Info Point the sign needs five key messages:
- An enticing headline e.g. “Have you heard the one about the over enthusiastic grave diggers? Follow our church tour to learn more.”
- How to connect to Info Point – manually and via a QR code
- How to open the content page – manually (typing a URL) and by scanning a QR code
- Troubleshooting – some devices require mobile data to be turned off in order for the content to display
- Reassurance – it is free and secure, and no login or download is needed
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