When guests arrive at our church, they are giving us a gift. They are honoring us with the valuable asset of their time, and trusting us to use that time wisely. For the guest with previous church experience, they have a baseline by which to measure us. If we hit the mark, they’ll know it. If we miss it, they’ll know that too. For the guest who is new to our church and any church, they may not know what church is supposed to look like, but they’ll intuitively know if it matches whatever image they had in their mind.
If you follow up with your guests – and you should – there is a question I would encourage you to ask. It’s a simple question, but one that will reveal a tremendous amount about how your guest felt:
How was your experience?
It’s an open-ended question, one that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no. It forces our guests to get a tiny bit vulnerable and tell us what worked, what didn’t, what made sense, and what left them confused.
It’s a deeper-than-normal question that requires some thought. It makes them dig a layer past the blanket answer of fine and makes them reckon not just with what they’re telling you, but what they’re telling themselves.
It’s an inviting question, one that signals that you really want to know the truth, one that tells them that you have their best interest in mind and want to craft an experience that suits what they are looking for.
(I get it…there are some reading this who scream consumerism! when they read the word “experience” in regards to church. Mark Waltz has written extensively on the topic, and I’ve been tackling it since the earliest days of this blog. Brush up on those other books and posts if you’d like an in-depth treatment.)
How was your experience? allows a guest to tell you how they felt about the environment their kids were in. How was your experience? paves the way for them to point out something that wasn’t clear (and to give you a chance to make it clear). How was your experience? opens the door for them to tell you the deeper spiritual questions they wrestled with, and gives you the opportunity to move them closer to a relationship with Jesus.
Don’t discount the experience. And certainly don’t dismiss the opportunity to ask about the experience. Try it with your guest follow up this week. You may be surprised where the question takes you.