Attractive: Creating A Welcoming Atmosphere

For Expected Growth

In This Edition:

  • Creating an Attractive Strategy for Class Options

  • Creating an Attractive Learning Environment

  • Creating an Attractive Online Presence

  • What’s New on the Avenue?

  • Top Picks: This Week’s Recommended Resources


Creating an Attractive Strategy for Class Options

It’s a well-known truth: people want to feel wanted, that they belong, and that they are needed. You can see this in a church context, when members are asked to use their talents, and to find their gifts. When we seek out people in our church and let them know they are needed, we will find that bit of appreciation goes a long way.

It’s also true that first time visitors who come to your church looking for something will likely stay if they get the sense that YOU were also looking for them. First-time visitors should get the sense from us “we’ve been waiting for you. We’ve been planning with you in mind.” That first, initial sense visitors get from us should be that we have thought about their felt needs, we have anticipated their arrival, and have something to offer them.

In both cases—first-time visitors and regular members—I would suggest that our adult Bible classes should strive to offer “something for everybody.” This is especially in keeping with a goal of evangelism, and having more and more attenders and first-time visitors, as well as moving visitors to members.

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership suggests “offering a variety of formats, schedules and approaches.” You can find their helpful list at churchleadership.com. For example:

Times & Location: Experiment with a variety of times (On Sundays and during the week) and locations (at the building, or in homes, the coffee shop, or the library).

Class Style: Does your class prefer lecture or discussion? Is integrating media positive or distracting? Find out how your class learns best.

Class Topic & Format: Covering books of the Bible is (in my opinion) a staple. But people are also looking for how to have Christian marriages, raise children in Christ, and address current cultural issues of the day; the church ought to be a place where we find clear answers for those pressing questions.

Class Length: Quarters covering one topic are fine, but shorter classes lasting 4-6 weeks can also be helpful. These can provide opportunities for discussion & won’t scare off potential teachers. They are also great for members and visitors. Many people are wanting to browse first, and this could be an excellent way to invite people to explore Bible class as well as pressing issues of faith before they make the long-term commitment that seems inherent in a longer Bible class with seasoned members.

Class Make-Up & Groupings: Should classes be age-based, interest-based, life stage-based, or gender-based? How about classes geared toward levels of spiritual maturity, taking into account levels of learning? These all have pros and cons. Why not offer a variety?

The Lewis Center for Church Leadership, “50 Ways to Strengthen adult education.” Available here.

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Creating an Attractive Learning Environment

Close your eyes and picture your classroom. This is where the magic is going to happen. This is where first-time visitors and regular members are going to find a warm welcome, form healthy relationships, hear the Word of God, and make commitments to discipleship. This is both a classroom for learning and a living room for making connections. So let me ask you some questions about what you see when you look into your room:

Focus on when you first walk in. Is the class facing the side, the back, or are all the chairs facing you? This is something we probably have never noticed before. How hard do you think it is for a first-time visitor to walk into the front of a room where everyone is facing you? If you were a visitor, would you walk in that room if you were 5 minutes late? While we are focusing on the chairs, think about this—are they comfortable to sit in for 45 minutes, especially for the age group I’m trying to reach?

How about the walls? When I close my eyes, and picture the classrooms I’ve taught in over the years, I can still see the posters from the early 80’s, including the Garfield hanging on for dear life. Just imagine what an adult thinks if they walk into a classroom that was really set up for a youth group from 1987. Something as simple as a bare wall with a fresh coat of paint can do wonders for freshening up a room. Or perhaps if you do have signs or posters, do they set the tone you want, or speak to the theme you wish to share? Fresh paint and attractive visuals can be simple changes that transform a classroom.

Look for the light. Does your room have windows and sunlight? If not, does it have great lighting? That constant flicker in the one light fixture might be distracting. Would simply changing a light bulb or opening the curtains make a difference?

Let’s use our noses now. Does the classroom smell old, stale, and flat? Try opening a window. Or maybe some fresh carpet. Or moving to the classroom next door. Maybe the smell of coffee and muffins will do the trick. Just think what makes certain rooms in your house inviting, and you will begin to imagine the possibilities.

Let’s switch to our ears. Really listen. Can people hear each other in this room? Is that air conditioner louder than you remembered? Should I, as the teacher, use some sort of microphone given the size of this room? Sound quality—from individual conversations near the coffee pot, to the mic’d sound system networked throughout the room—can make a difference.

Step back for a second. How did you get to your classroom? Is the building’s layout understandable for first-time visitors? If it’s not, could a simple sign somewhere in the hallway make things easier? How about a map that could be inserted into your weekly bulletin or newsletter?

But all of this is literally “window dressing.” Even if none of the aesthetics around us change, we can always change ourselves. Is there a genuine sense of excitement in the room? Is there a spirit among the people that is positive, warm, full of joy and eagerness to be together? Positivity breeds positivity. I can be intentional about the tone I set in my classroom from the moment people walk in. Have a strategy to make people feel welcome. Maybe its coffee and donuts; maybe its some inspiring music; maybe it’s a question written on the board for everyone to ask themselves the moment they come in. Maybe it’s a slide show or a hand-out waiting on everyone. What interests or needs could be met the moment someone walks in the door? It’s worth asking.

Making small changes to our surroundings can have a big effect on whether people feel expected, welcomed, invited, and appreciated. And ultimately how we change ourselves will make a difference in creating a welcoming and attractive atmosphere where learning Jesus is about to take place.

Excerpts from Episode 5 of the Avenue for Faith podcast, titled “Attractive: Creating a Welcoming Atmosphere.” Available on all podcast platforms.

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Creating an Attractive Online Presence

Whether we think about it or not, your church’s front door these days is your website. Many people will check out your site long before they come inside. And that’s true for programs within your church as well. Members may look at how you display your ministry options and it will have an influence on whether they want to join in, or think they can join in.

Let’s think for a minute about your church website. If I was a first-time visitor to this website, would I find it warm, welcoming, and attractive? Can I find what I’m looking for with ease? Does the website immediately say the one thing you want people to know about your church? If Bible classes or small groups are priorities, does it say that? Not just in words—does it “scream” that in how it is presented? How about the classes themselves—is there anything that would make you say “I want to be part of that class!”

Here’s another question: is it easy to get my questions answered?—a contact person for the class, or a link to more information, or a way to get notified of upcoming studies? Ask yourself how much time you would put into fixing a broken front door that faces the highway, then apply that same enthusiasm to how we present ourselves online.

There are many exciting and encouraging examples online worth using as a template. One of my favorites is Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City.

The first thing I see on their homepage is list of opportunities to take part in what they offer: Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, Wednesday evenings. But I also notice this: “live stream”  of the Sunday service and “in person worship” are in the same font, the same size, and the same menu as “small groups” and “adult Bible classes.” When I see that I think “everything they offer is important to them, and they want you to take advantage of all of it!”

If you click on “Bible class” you find they have a whole page dedicated to adult education. First is their mission statement, followed by an explanation of what their goals are as an education ministry.

The next section  (after the menu) invites members to GET INVOLVED—either teaching, or facilitating a book club, or writing curriculum. Can you see how this shows an interest in getting the congregation involved in what they are doing?

Immediately after that, we have access to the Sunday adult Bible class curriculum that they use in all their classes. This is one way to do it—not the only way to do it. But they have a map for those new to the building, and then they have a link called “lessons & materials for teachers.”

Here’s what I love about this: it says “we’ve thought ahead and we’ve prepared for you. Members, we want you to use your talents in teaching, or facilitating, or writing. Visitors, here’s a map to our building. Teachers or potential teachers, don’t be scared—here’s outlines for your classes.” I just find this approach inspiring.

Visit MRCC


What’s New On The Avenue?

Social Media Presence

@avenueforfaith can now be found on facebook, twitter, and instagram. Follow us to get even more tips and resources, Sherrod Avenue offerings, and sneak peeks at upcoming podcasts and interviews.

Upcoming Zoom Classes And LiveStream

During the month of February, Janie Walton offered two fine zoom classes for women: A class on the Sermon on the Mount called “Turning Your Heart To God,” and a Scripture Writing/Bible Journaling course. Janie is an incredible and sought-after teacher. Stay tuned for her new class in March—to which you are invited—covering the book of Hosea! Watch a video preview here. You can sign up for it as well as for any of our zoom courses here.

Sherrod Avenue has re-opened our in-person classes as well. We are finishing our series on the New Testament Letters (James-Jude) in the auditorium. Dr. Ed Gallagher, our associate minister and associate professor of Christian Scripture at Heritage Christian University, will begin a new series on the book of Jeremiah in March. Dr. Gallagher received his PhD from Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion, is an expert in Old Testament studies as well as early Christian literature, and is the author of The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity: Texts and Analysis (published by Oxford University Press). You can watch our Sunday morning auditorium classes live or archived online here.

I am continuing to offer my Zoom class “Fires, Floods, Famines, and Faith: Trusting God and Being Church in a Pandemic.” We meet online at a new time—Thursday nights at 6 PM—where you can read along (transcript) or watch along (video) as I interview theologians and biblical scholars from around the world. We then consider some discussion questions and seek to encourage each other. You are welcome to join any time. Each lesson is a stand-alone presentation. Sign up here.

See All Our Class Offerings


Top Picks: This Week’s Recommended Resources

Study Bibles: Crossway ESV & Zondervan NIV

Nothing compares to the biblical text. But since we all bring baggage to the table (having learned, read, and heard scripture filtered through our parents, preachers, and personal experiences), isn’t it helpful to have trusted advisors to share insights along the way as we journey through the Bible? A good study Bible can be a key resource, but not all Bibles that call themselves “study” Bibles are of equal value in this way. I recommend you look for four things: (1) A standard interdenominational committee-translation; (2) committee-produced study notes authored by experts in the field; (3) a good reputation for balancing academic scholarship and help for personal devotion; and (4) user-friendly aids (such as featured articles or downloadable maps through an online version). While there are some excellent options in a variety of versions, here are two suggested options.

ESV Study Bible

Zondervan NIV Study Bible

Zoom Help: Vaughn Park Church of Christ

The Vaughn Park Church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama, created three youtube videos to help their members learn how to use zoom, join a zoom class, or download a zoom recording. This is a great example for churches to be user-friendly, and could serve as a model for your own church to help members connect.

Recording Technology: Some Suggestions

If you are recording lessons for a podcast or recording zoom courses for your church, class, or ministry, here are a few budget-friendly suggestions on the tech side:

Microphones: Two good entry-level microphones less than $100 are the Audio-Technica ATR2100-X (which I use), and the Samson Q2U. These mics can plug straight into your computer (via USB). If you need an audio interface, check out the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 (3rd gen) Audio Interface with Pro Tools. If you want a simple lapel mic that can plug straight into a phone for easy recording in a class, try the Rode SmartLav+ Omnidirectional Lavalier Mic for iphone/smartphone.

Camera: If you want to upgrade from your laptop camera, but keep a $100 budget, check out the Logitech HD Webcam C310 or the Logitech C930e. If your budget moves up to $200, consider the Logitech Brio.

Software: I use and highly recommend Adobe Premiere (for video) and Adobe Audition (for podcast), though there are many other good choices out there.

Lighting: You can find great lighting for your personal zoom video recording for less than $100. If you want a ring light, see the 18” Neewer Ring Light kit on sale or the 10” ESDDI tabletop. If you are looking for a softbox, Neewer 700W Softbox kit is one great example. If your budget moves up to $200, check out Fovitec 3-light softbox with boom.

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Avenue For Faith is a publication of the Adult Education Ministry of Sherrod Avenue Church of Christ in Florence, Alabama. My name is Nathan Guy, and I am the Minister of Adult Education. I am happily married to Katie and also serve as President of Mars Hill Bible School. You can find more resources on our website over at avenueforfaith.org. Follow us @avenueforfaith (fb/tw/ig).