The 11 Minute Difference: 7 Checkpoints to a Great Guest Experience at Your Church

Last week, I noticed Will Mancini blog about some of the things we’ve been discussing on my blog…

Last week, I noticed Will Mancini blog about some of the things we’ve been discussing on my blog the past week. I’ve got 2 new articles on what guests look for that I’m anxious for you to read, but they’ll appear first in Outreach magazine. In the meantime, I thought it would be helpful for you to read Will’s thoughts.

This goes back to why a church would want to hire a secret shopper. Will shares 7 checkpoints. I look for close to 100 different things when I do a secret shopper visit (resulting in a 16 page report). If you’re interested in bringing me in for a secret shopper visit, go HERE for more information. Read what Will had to say:

When a first time guest drives onto your campus, they will decide within 11 minutes whether or not they are coming back.

Yes, the decision is made before your guests experience  worship and the content of the sermon- the two elements that demand most, if not all, of our time and attention in preparation.

What would it look like if you extended the same level of intention to the 11 minutes prior to walking in the sanctuary or worship center? Maybe the better question is What would it feel like for your guests?

It’s hard to overstate the wow factor a church body creates by serve generously through a system of hospitality. For the last 10 years I have observed and analyzed over 200 churches while conducting a secret worshipper experience.  It is a service at Auxano we call the Guest Perspective Evaluation. One of my greatest thrills in ministry is tasting the variety of size, location, and spiritual heritage of these churches. But the most important observation is that any church can take small steps to make a dramatic difference in welcoming guests.

This post is the first time I have shared any of our tools or learnings. And the first place to start is to imagine seven checkpoints for your guest. Think of the checkpoints as gates or even hurdles that any first time guest must navigate to get from their comfy family room to your worship service. With every gate comes a simple question: Has the church removed the inherent difficulty of navigating the gate for the first time?

More specifically I look for every opportunity to make each gate  simple, easy and obvious to navigate. Any particular difficulties created by your location or facility should be viewed as hospitality opportunities. By providing a great solution to an obvious barrier, you enhance the wow-factor of the hospitality.


#1 Before Departure: Are directions and service times immediately accessible to guests  from your church website, phone recording and yellow pages?

#2 Travel to Location: Do guests know where to turn into your church location?

#3 Parking Lot: Do guests know where to park?

#4 Building Entrance: Do guests know which door to enter?

#5 Children’s Ministry: Do guests know where to take their kids?

#6 Welcome Center: Do guest know where to go for more information?

#7 Worship: Do guests know which door to enter?

*** Do you have these 7 checkpoints covered at your church?