I’ve been to a lot of churches, not as a listener but as a preacher. Being a visiting preacher allows me to observe objectively how things could be done better. I shall talk about two tips in the following discussion. Before we jump into our discussion, we must realize that people do not just come for the preaching. Perhaps, some come for the preaching but they may not stay.
First, make the entry welcoming. Inform your ushers on how to usher. I’ve been in an expat church in Hong Kong as a visiting speaker except the usher did not recognize me as such. This was a predominately white church. Due to the fact I was ethnic Chinese, the usher only used gestures to point me to the wonderful shops and restaurant nearby, thinking I was looking for shopping opportunity and assuming that I didn’t know English. We were both embarrassed, me being embarrassed for him and him being embarrassed for himself, after I told him that I was the preacher. The fact is, our ushers should assume nothing. Their job is the usher people into the sanctuary and make them feel welcome. What if a tourist accidentally stumbled into the church and heard the gospel? Imagine that! God forbid! Our ushers need training in understanding their objective. Their job is more than passing bulletins. Ushering may look like an easy job, but it takes immense people skills to give a good impression. The church staff needs to come up with a set of guidelines to help ushers avoid potentially embarrassing moments like the one I depicted above. The ushers really should abide by some do’s and don’ts. Each usher should be able to show everyone where the bathroom is, where all the programs (e.g. children’s programs, nursery etc.) are and so on. A bad first impression may be the last impression ushers give visitors.
Second, churches skimp on sound systems all the time. The worst sound systems are often churches. I have preached in one place where the local radio station competed for the same air wave while I peached. Nothing ruins the listening experience in quite the same way when Britney Spears come on in the middle of the sermon. With cheap sound systems and bad wiring, you’d never know when Guns N’ Roses may strike in the middle of your sermon time. I’m not suggesting that we need to get the best sound systems like our public auditoriums or concert halls, but at the very least, we should get the upper middle price range. Before you suggest that all the money would be better spent on the poor, think about this. What other “programs” can you cut to use that money on the poor? Why deprioritize the sound system? From a preacher’s point of view, having a bad sound system does impact how the message gets delivered. Even if the best message is preached, it matters nothing when the audience does not hear. Churches are better off spending the money to talk with sound engineers who can give the best advice so that once the system is up, there’ll be no need for corrections. Revamping a sound system to correct mistakes also costs a lot of money.
When looking at worship, I think we can all agree that worship is largely an experience. When things are going well, we don’t notice, but when the experience goes bad, the congregation cannot concentrate. Working the above two areas will help improve every worshipper’s experience.