Churches have much to learn from Golden Arches

By on October 1, 2004

Churches should take a leaf from the 750-page training manual of global restaurant giant McDonald’s and make first-time visitors feel more welcome, a study has found.

McDonald’s “entire ethos is geared around making us feel welcome and ensuring that we ‘call again,'” says Alison Gilchrist in her study, entitled Creating A Culture of Welcome.

Even a “fairly reserved” official body like the English Tourist Board takes hospitality seriously and offers a Welcome Host training course.

By contrast, she says many British churches combine hot coffee with a cold shoulder.

“Fellowship time after the service is often an exclusive club where the outsider never catches sight of a friendly face approaching to say hello,” says Ms. Gilchrist, an Anglican cleric in Lancashire, England. “We have forgotten the gut-wrenching fear of the first journey over the threshold.”

In the United States, one man visited 195 churches and reported that he was spoken to only once apart from the official greeters: he was asked to move his feet.

Ms. Gilchrist recommends the “three-minute rule” of spending that time after the service talking to visitors before chatting to friends.

Creating A Culture of Welcome says visitors need to be clear what is going on in the service.

“Some of the most ‘upset people’ are those who felt excluded from the worship because a lack of ‘stage directions’ meant they could not join in,” she says.

Among Ms. Gilchrist’s other tips to bring in newcomers: keep the grass cut, and take outdated notices off the board.

Meanwhile, Ship of Fools, “the magazine of Christian unrest,” has reported that it sent a team of “mystery worshippers” to rate “the comfort of the pews, the warmth of the welcome and the length of the sermon” around various places of worship in Britain and beyond. The verdicts, which range from “wonderful worship (and coffee) to serious sermon, canned praise” can be found at the Web site www.shipoffools.com

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