Survey: Church, Ministers Not the Friendliest in Town
Maybe you have seen the survey…Less than 18 percent of Americans say the church is the friendliest place in town. Whoa!
Though the church is ranked second behind “my home,” which 35 percent of Americans listed, Group Publishing – which commissioned this survey – says the low number indicates that what is generally considered to be one of the safest havens in the world isn’t seen as that friendly by most Americans.
Even among self-declared Christians, less than 25% named the church as the friendliest place and non-Christians rated it at 7 only percent. Maybe these folks have not visited a church before so that is their reason or maybe it is because these folks have visited a church before and that is their reason!
Is this the main reason people don’t return when they visit our churches or maybe why they don’t even attend at all? Attendance in churches in the U.S. is declining and we should all be concerned.
What makes a place exude hospitality?
The 750 surveyed Americans in this study, 500 of whom were Christian, said the most important factor that makes a place friendly is “making me feel like I belong.” Other factors included “making me feel comfortable” and “at ease,” conversation, smiles and being non-judgmental were also included.
Chris Howley, director of research at Group Publishing, the Colorado-based firm specializing in church resources, told The Christian Post, “What the survey revealed for us is that people are really starved for relationship when it comes to what they’re looking for in the church.”
It takes more than just greeters in the parking lot and at the doors although this is a good start and all churches should have this ministry in place.
Teaching your members to start conversations with guests is the first step. We must encourage our members to get to know new people by taking the initiative to introduce themselves. If a guest visits your church and no one speaks to them or seeks to engage them in meaningful dialogue would suggest that the church does not care. “Creating a culture of kindness and hospitality” begins with your leaders; pastor, staff, deacons, and teachers. If we don’t model this it will not be “caught.”
Other findings were that churches fall behind restaurants, pubs, and sports bars when it comes to favorite places to meet new friends. Only 16 percent named church as their favorite place. Eleven percent chose “Online” as their favorite place to make new friends.
Howley speculates that what leads someone to a restaurant/pub/sports bar over a church can be the sense that no strings are attached.
“They can approach those places without an overwhelming sense of obligation,” he explained. Lots of people go to church because they feel like “they have to.” Whereas, at a restaurant, there’s “nothing clouding over” their intent of just meeting new friends.
In another notable finding, ministers or religious leaders are ranked fifth on the friendliest people in town list. Most surveyed Americans named “a close friend” and “family member” as the friendliest person. Meanwhile, ministers were ranked behind neighbors and co-workers. Hairstylists, barbers and other service attendants weren’t far behind.
In response, Howley recommends that ministers and church staff engage the church body more.
“People look at church as a place where communication is one-way from the pulpit to the pew. We’re saying you’ll gain more by speaking less and listening,” he said.
Results are based on a blind study that did not reveal Group Publishing as the sponsor. No religious affiliation was associated with the effort.
So what can you do to change your church culture to one of welcoming and hospitality? Do you take the initiative to speak to people and engage them in conversation?
Every guest that walks through our doors is a gift from God. How are you treating that gift? What is your process? Are you ready for guests this Sunday?
(My idea for this article came from an article by Lillian Kwon who is a reporter for the Christian Post)