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Week Seven: Ten Reasons Visitors Do Not Return
Autopsy of a Deceased Church by Thom S. Rainer

We have come to the end of our Lenten studies. I have been interested to hear feedback from those of you who read along with me. In Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Thom S. Rainer explores what I often hear about or see when I make my visits on Sundays. Many of our churches are vulnerable because we fail to acknowledge that we are sleeping at the wheel. I hope Rainer’s words startled something within your congregation — a conversation, a work of action or some other reaction to explore.

Below are 10 reasons Rainer believes visitors do not return for a second visit to churches. Some of these reasons we have been speaking about for quite some time but little attention is paid to their warning (the parentheses are mine):

  1. An unfriendly and awkward stand-and-greet time in the worship service. (I visited a church one Sunday and during the peace, no one came to welcome me. If they won’t welcome the Bishop who they know, what does that say about the visitors they don’t know and don’t greet?)
  2. Unfriendly church members. (No explanation needed)
  3. Unsafe and unclean children’s area.
  4. No place to get information on the church.
  5. Bad church website. (See number 4. There are some churches that still list Christmas as coming next Sunday.)
  6. Poor signage.
  7. Insider church language. (In the Episcopal Church we have what others might say is a foreign language issue. If a visitor sits beside you, help them with the prayer book!)
  8. Boring or bad church services.
  9. Members telling guests they were in the wrong pew or chair. (I heard the story of one parishioner telling the visitor to move because he was sitting in her pew. The visitor responded, “I thought I was in general admission.”)
  10. Dirty facilities. (There is no excuse for this.)

As Lent ends and Easter begins, new life is stirred. What will be your reaction to this new life? Jesus tells us that the harvest is plenty but the laborers are few. However, I believe that a few people really can move a mountain if we are willing to listen and change.

Blessed Easter,
The Rt. Rev. Morris K. Thompson, Jr.
Bishop of Louisiana

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