Preparing for Visitors

Preparing for Visitors

When was the last time you really looked at your building and how it functions? The following exercise can help people to take a fresh look at themselves and their building. It worked extremely well in the ‘Through the Church Door’ project in Hereford and Worcester, South Shropshire and South Warwickshire in 1994-1996.

Take a fresh look…


Purpose: to get a picture of how your building speaks to other people.

  • Invite a group of about six people to visit the church at a convenient time.
  • Do not make any special arrangements for them but arrange to meet them in the church car park or outside the entrance gate.
  • If possible include one or two people who rarely, or only occasionally, visit your church.
  • If you are one of a group of parishes and you can work together visiting each other’s buildings.


  • Do nothing to the church.
  • Have writing materials for everyone
  • Hang a large sheet of paper or put a flip chart or somewhere where everyone can see it and you can write easily.
  • Make sure you have a thick pen to write with.
  • Arrange sufficient chairs so that everyone can see the paper. If possible make this a circle, pews are not conducive to discussion and you may have to work harder to get it going.
  • Have tea or coffee and biscuits available.


  • Give everyone a piece of paper and pencil.
  • Ask the group to work as individuals to spend 10 minutes quietly on their own walking around the church and churchyard noting down their thoughts.
  • Get them to consider what they see, how they feel, what surprises or interests them.
  • Encourage everyone to write down at least six thoughts good or bad, it doesn’t matter.

You prepare the drinks

After the allotted time invite everyone to come in, take a drink and sit down in the circle together.

  • Ask one person to read out their six things, you record them on the paper. See if any of the others have anything similar.
  • Discuss these points.
  • Move on to the next person, get them to add one thing that has not yet appeared.
  • Check to see if any of the others have anything similar.
  • Discuss these points.
  • Go on around the group until everyone has had the chance to contribute.
  • Build up a picture of how your church appears to other people

What have you learned?

What can you do to make things better?

Who can you get to help?

A session such as this will help to get the ball rolling and give you something tangible to share with others to help your building speak and be welcoming.

You might find that unsightly areas are noticed – you can sort them out.

People read your notices and find that much of the material is out of date or looks tatty.

People have questions, about the services, the building or particular things inside it – you can provide them with more information.