Front-Load the Value: One Simple Step that Can Make Any Church More Appealing to Guests

smartWhat does your church do well? And how long does it take a first-time guest to experience it?

Your response to those questions may be the single biggest factor in how successful your church is at attracting and keeping new people.

According to church leadership experts, most people will subconsciously decide whether-or-not to come back to a church within the first 7-10 minutes of driving into the parking lot.

If your church is doing everything great, keep it up. But that’s not the case for most of us. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll admit we do some things well, but there are other aspects of the Sunday morning service we struggle with. And some parts we’re just awful at.

What’s worse, many churches take the things we don’t do well and put them at the beginning of the service. That means our church guests have made a yes/no decision about being a part of our congregation when all they’ve seen are the things we’re not that good at.

No, a 7-10 minute window isn’t enough time for people to make a fair assessment. But it is reality. 


The Biggest Mistake We May Be Making

Despite the fact that most pastors are aware of this 7-10 minute phenomenon, few of us have done much about it. But it’s not because we don’t care.

Here’s an example.

Most Small Churches have a hard time finding someone to lead in worship. I know because I spent a lot of years – decades, actually – fighting this battle. By the time I got up to preach, I often had to rescue the church from the hole that had been dug during the front half of the service.

I know I’m not alone in that experience. Most Small Churches don’t have the people or equipment to do worship music well.

Yet, how do most of us start our services? By singing together. Badly.

Yes, I know the scriptures say “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” but that doesn’t mean we should front-load the noise.


What Options Do We Have?

How does a church break away from burying our best ministry 15-20 minutes into the middle of the service?

Change that game. Flip the script.

Front-load the value and give them our best stuff up front.

With that in mind, I’m going to propose a radical idea. One that I wish I’d thought of 30 years ago so I could have implemented it when I needed it most.

(If your church is high-liturgy, in which the order of service is prescribed for you, I respect that. This post may not be for you. Maybe my next one will be just what you need.)


Re-Design Your Service Template

Start by writing down every element of your church service in the order you usually conduct them.

For some churches, that might look something like this:

  • Worship through music
  • Prayer
  • Bible reading
  • Communion
  • Special music
  • Offering
  • Preaching
  • Fellowship time

Now comes the hard part. Look at those elements, honestly rate them by how well you’re currently doing them, then re-write the list, from best to worst.

For some churches, your list might look something like this:

  • Fellowship time
  • Bible reading
  • Preaching
  • Prayer
  • Communion
  • Offering
  • Special music
  • Worship through music

Now look at your list and ask yourself this question.

Why aren’t you conducting your church service in the order you just wrote down?

Before you reject that as a crazy idea, sit with it for a moment.


It’s Not About Theology

Right now your church service may be putting your worst foot forward instead of your best.


You don’t have to do it that way. There’s no theological reason for it. There’s no order of service listed in the bible. Your service template is not holy writ. At least it shouldn’t be.

For most churches, this template is a holdover from some long-forgotten past. If you asked the people in your church “why do you have the order of service you have?”, most would have no clue.

Some leaders might be able to give some makeshift theological justification for it. But the key word in that last sentence isn’t “theological”, it’s “makeshift”. Our order of service isn’t theologically based. It’s just what we do, so we’ve tacked a quasi-theological explanation onto it.


You Can Do This!

Here’s the great thing about this re-boot idea. It’s still your church. These are the elements you’re already doing. You’re not adding anything to your to-do list. And you’re not adopting another church’s ideas and hoping you can pull it off.

You can do this! You know you can, because you’re doing the elements already.

All that’s changed is that you’re letting people see your best stuff first.

The one exception you might make is to move one of your better elements to the end of the service, so it starts and ends on high notes.


What If It Worked?

I know what some of you are thinking. “What if I try this and it doesn’t work?”

That’s easy. If it doesn’t work, just go back to doing it the way you’re used to.

But what if it does work?

Here’s an idea. Summer’s coming. Try it for June through August. Call them your Flip-the-Script Summer Services, (or a better name that works for your church) and see what happens.

If it works, keep doing it after summer’s over. If it doesn’t, go back to your current order of service when the kids go back to school.

But even if you don’t stick with the entire new service order, I’d be very surprised if this new way of looking at things didn’t help you discover something new. Something fresh. Something everyone loves. If so, keep that and carry on.


So what do you think? Is this something your church might try?

We want to hear from you. Yes, you!
Enter your comment right below this post and get in on the conversation.

(Smart Stamp photo from Kyle Van Horn • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

11 thoughts on “Front-Load the Value: One Simple Step that Can Make Any Church More Appealing to Guests”

  1. Troy Robinson

    Just had this exact discussion with a Leadership Council member. He just wasn’t sure. I’m going to try this.

  2. Love this article. This is exactly where we are at as a small church. Our main keyboard accompanist just left and the other worship leader we have (who is very good) only wants to lead once a month. So what we have right now in most services at the very beginning is the worst part of our service. Your article is such a practical idea and one we can do. Thanks for posting this.

    1. I’m glad it could encourage you, Laurie. Worship/music is probably the hardest part of a typical church service to do well. I think a couple simple songs at the end of a service as we reflect on the message from the Word may be a good alternative for a lot of churches.

  3. I like where you’re going with this.

    One idea to further scrub down the misery of miserable congregational singing: teach them to read the psalms antiphonally. It’s not hard to do and from time to time it can add an uplifting touch. Throw in some well rehearsed dramatic readings of scripture passages (the psalms again) that are all about exalting the Lord, beholding his glory (Isaiah? Ezekiel?) and encourage the church to throw in some Amen! and Preaching it! responses.

  4. Duane Baun "Bogie"

    Good points made! Change up every-once-in-a-while makes regular attenders more aware of what could be. One point, however: I’m a Lutheran clergy and our text from last Sunday (Easter3) was from the gospel of Luke 24:13-35. I believe that Luke was offering a new way for the new Christian community to worship, a change from the Synagogue worship. The pattern is Gathering (to listen to concerns, music use to call us together); Word (as Jesus quotes from from Moses and the prophets to explain what happened to Jesus and why); the meal (communion) as Jesus is revealed in the breaking of the bread; Sending (the two left in haste to tell the disciples at Jerusalem that they have seen the risen Lord. A lot of adaption can be integrated in each of those ares, and your suggestion can easily be moved around in those areas as well. But your suggestion for today was good, to make us look at and evaluate our worship patterns as visitors step into our worship patterns..

  5. I’m all for mixing things up. I’ve even started right in with the message a time or two (and changed the seating), it is somewhat entertaining to see the reaction of people. Like the ones who would generally show up mid way to the end of worship because they didn’t prefer our style. Or the confusion on a persons face when they walk in and I’m in the middle of teaching, suddenly they think the time change hit.
    Every time though the “shock” wears off and the enjoyment of freshness takes over.
    Thanks, as always, for your insight Karl!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *