When I retired from pastoral ministry in 2015, I decided that I would do several important things:

  1. I would remember to say ‘no,’ and feel good about it.
  2. I would only be involved in things that I was passionate about.
  3. I would play golf at least once a week.
  4. I would visit a different church every week. After all, I had listened to myself preach for 35 years. It was time to hear everybody else.

One of the churches I visited recently presented an interesting experience – I had the address, and my GPS could direct me to the location, but once I arrived, the entrance drive was obscure, and there was no signage to direct me to any part of the building.

Had I been a standard, first-time, Sunday morning visitor, this church would probably have lost me within the first ten seconds.

Clear signage and ease of access are key components of a church’s hospitality. It is amazing how quickly that visitors evaluate the hospitality of a church which they visit.

There is much to be said about social media as a portal into the church, but then how easily a visitor can find and access the location and building spaces becomes the first tangible physical way that the visitor experiences the… Share on X

Churches should be aware of how the major GPS providers are directing visitors to their location. If you have multiple entry drives, there may be one particular one to which you would like to direct your visitors. Suggested edits and feedback to providers may help you fine tune your media presence in how a provider like Google is directing people into your location.

Traffic flow and entry points to church parking should be clearly marked. This is one of those places where it is important to look through the eye of the visitor. People who are familiar with the church know where to enter, know where to park in order to get easiest access, know how to get to classes or worship. Visitors don’t, and signage must be developed from their perspective. It’s just so important – why not a sign that simply says, “Enter.”

Exterior signage should direct visitors to major entry points. Those unfamiliar with the building are typically looking for worship spaces. Identify these first, then also related spaces such as nurseries. For weekdays, many visitors will look for the church office or childcare entry.

Parking personnel should be available to manage areas of congestion or confusion. There will always be spots that require a little extra attention:

  • Is it okay to park on the main thoroughfare at a church with limited parking?
  • Is there a traffic jam in spots as one service turns out and another begins?
  • Are shuttles needed for moving people over long distances after they park?
  • Is someone needed outside the building to answer questions for visitors as they arrive?
Friendly people can allay the fears of visiting a new and confusing place and can interpret the most complex of facilities with a smile. Share on X

Interior signage should pick up where exterior signage leaves off, directing visitors to the places that visitors go – worship spaces, age-level classes, and nurseries – again focusing on the main places of interest to visitors.

We had an interesting insight offered at a church where I served on staff at one time. We wanted to know how we were doing with our signage, so we asked an architectural firm to evaluate it. After a thorough tour of the building and many notes taken, the architect returned saying, “Well, now I know what business you’re in – you’re in the bathroom business!” One look around with new perspective proved him to be true – every corner displayed direction to the nearest bathroom, even more often than to the main worship space. Our signage did not truly reflect who we were and what we were about.

If you truly want to offer hospitality, put on your “visitor glasses” and see what your visitor sees, then take the time to assist that visitor in his/her journey into your location and building through clear, adequate signage. If you want to explore more about how to seamlessly lead visitors into your building, email me at david.carroll@ministryarchitects.com. I’d love to spend some time talking with you about developing a depth of hospitality that will draw visitors to your door.

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