Does Your Worship Center Give Any of These 10 Terrible First Impressions?

What other possible negative first impressions come to mind for you? (Pixabay)

In our Lawless Group consultations, we always enlist "secret shoppers" to visit churches and give us a report. In negative reports, here are some of "first impression" concerns they verbalize about a worship center they've visited.

  1. It's dull. There's nothing about the worship center that just "grabs" you. Little about it makes the guest say, "This building looks exciting. I want to learn more." 
  2. It's dated. The pews are old. The colors were popular in the 1970s. The walls are dark. It feels like you've stepped back in time to worship.
  3. It's empty. For example, the worship center was built for 500 when the church was larger, but the congregation now fits in only a portion of it. Congregational singing feels like singing a solo.
  4. It smells. It's amazing how church members' noses grow accustomed to odors that almost knock out a first-time guest.
  5. It's dark. Sometimes that's because the interior woodwork is naturally dark; at other times, it's because the lighting is dull.
  6. It's dirty. Coffee stains in the carpet seem to have been there a while. Old bulletins are lying around. The furniture could use a good dusting.
  7. It's different. Our secret shoppers more often get this impression in younger churches with unique stages and platforms in front. "Different" doesn't make them wrong, however; it just means that some guests don't always see the worship center as "cool" as others see it.
  8. It's cold (or hot ...). Maybe it could warm up when the room is full, but it's cold when the secret shoppers get there.
  9. It's hard to get there. Getting to the building itself might be easy, but determining which door to enter and how to find the worship center once you're in the building isn't easy.
  10. It's ugly. I know that's a subjective assessment, but most of us have a general sense of what ugly is when we see it.

What other possible negative first impressions come to mind for you?

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This article originally appeared at

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