Practical tips shared by ‘most welcoming churches’
Following this year’s awards the judges have written the following lines as a check list for your own churches.
Reporting back, the judges said that they were impressed by the work that is being undertaken across the Diocese, and generally the standard was very high. But this does not mean we cannot strive for even higher standards and make the churches in this Diocese the most welcoming in the country. To help spread good practice there are a number of recommendations they would like to share. These are as follows:
First impressions count!
- Ensure that gates, boundary walls, hedges and noticeboards are well maintained, as these are often the first things visitors see as they approach the church
- Wherever possible place a sign outside your building indicating that visitors are welcome or that the church is open
- If you are able to provide disabled access, are the instructions for assisted access clearly displayed?
- If you have toilets, are they open, clean, tidy and available for use? It is really annoying when toilets are advertised, and which can be seen when visiting the building, but are inaccessible
- Is your church clean and tidy and uncluttered? If not, this can leave a lasting impression and can lead to visitors feeling that the church is being neglected, even if it isn’t, and they have just caught you at a bad time
- Check that your notice board isn’t faded or shows out of date notices
- Keep dog bowls clean and freshly refilled. If this is difficult, perhaps you should just have an empty bowl available that can be filled as and when necessary
- It is important to have good guides and interpretative material on off er, either in paper format or using modern technology. Some that were seen were highly imaginative and well presented, and included guides specifically written for children. There is also an opportunity to include information about Christian beliefs and Baptism and Weddings.
- The judges particularly liked seeing a designated prayer area where there were invitations to pray or with candles to aid reflection and meditation. The judges felt that some churches were missing the opportunity to present themselves in the best light as places of prayer, worship and community
- If you have features within your churchyard that you would like visitors to see, ensure that the paths leading to them are cut regularly
- Check that any benches or seats are kept well maintained, making them pleasant to sit on and quietly reflect. Again, you may need to ensure that the access paths to them are kept regularly mown
- Judges were amazed at the number of churches where there is obviously wonderful ongoing work in progress. But there were some where simply too much was going on, and the judges felt that this took away any feeling of worshipful space.
For further possible consideration:
- Whether you could have a notice on the way out to the effect: “We hope you have enjoyed your visit to this Church. If you would like to help us to maintain it your gifts will be warmly and gratefully received”
- Have a simple, single sheet with basic interpretation of features of the church free for those who are not familiar with the structures and layout. There is also an opportunity to give information about current activities run by the church community.
The judging panel is very happy to revisit churches by invitation and act as ‘consultants’ sharing views of the church through ‘visitors’ eyes’.
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