If you won’t accept the gift of salvation as a first time visitor to our church, the very least we can do is send you home with this lovely parting gift. A loaf of bread? A CD message from the pastor? A mug with our church logo on it, featuring a dove, open Bible, sun rising through the “O” in our name and a lamb lying longingly?
You never know what you’ll find in the Gospel Gift Bag we often give first-time visitors. But what if we put what they really needed in it?
1. “Get out of offering free” cards.
We all do that “apologize to the first-time visitors that happen to have come on the one Sunday a year when you preach on money” thing, so let’s just go all the way. Let’s print up a small stack of little Monopoly-sized cards that say, “I’m just visiting.” That way, when the offering plate comes around, the visitors will have something to throw in without feeling weird.
2. An insider’s church map.
Forget the map that shows you where the bookstore is. Visitors need to know the inside information that normally takes years to learn. Where’s the secret bathroom that’s unmarked, looks like a supply closet from the outside, and is actually the cleanest one in the building? Which Sunday school classroom has a teacher who’s friendly and won’t try to force you to volunteer the minute she sees you? Where’s the free coffee and the donuts that are fresh, not left over from last week? These are the kinds of things you need on a map.
3. A seating chart.
Increase the chances of someone coming back to your church by about 105% by giving them a detailed sanctuary seating chart. Where do the people who sing with their eyes closed sit? Who’s going to give you either an awkward or an awesome frontal hug, depending on your preference, during the meet and greet? Where do the dancers and hand raisers sit? The guy who’s locked down his favorite seat for the last 14 years and is likely to put me in a sleeper hold if I accidentally sit there–where does that guy sit?
When people say, “Jon Acuff is changing his generation and perhaps how church as we know it works,” these are the ideas they’re referring to. You’ll probably become a megachurch and need to build a bigger parking lot if you include these items in your Gospel Gift Bag. But if you do, make sure you include which parking lot attendant is most skilled at getting people home. That information is gold and exactly the kind of thing a visitor really needs to know.