Atlanta Church Tour

Here is my roundup from my Atlanta Church Tour. I’ve visited many churches during my short time in the states (technically I am on 5 in just over a week, but one was for a wedding, so I am not going to count it). It’s also not often I get the opportunity to be a first time visitor in church, hence, I wanted to distill some of my experiences in some of the largest churches in Atlanta, below. Hopefully, the ideas distilled below will help spark your creativity as you think about the experience of first-time visitors to your church, business, or even home. You can check out the churches I visited in New York in my next blog post.

New York Church Tour – Coming Soon!

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free-chapel-atlanta-church-tourI visited Free Chapel in Gainesville, Georgia on a Wednesday evening (7pm service). Parking attendant directed me to a car park not too far from the main building (Wednesday isn’t as busy as their Sunday services). What stood out with me in Free Chapel was the entrance for first-time guests. This is brilliant (and I didn’t find it elsewhere). The first door I reached had a large sign directing the first-time guest in through the door. Right in front of the Door was the connections team who gave me a goody bag (everyone likes a freebie) and invited me to fill in a connection card. One of the women explained the different ways of connecting in with the church, using one of their leaflets, and then handed me a voucher for a free coffee after the service.

She then walked me to the auditorium, and showed me to some seats near the front, just to the left of the stage. They had designated areas for new people, so they would always have a seat. The Mark Rutland, the main speaker for the evening, saw us on our way in and introduced himself to me, and welcomed me to the church.

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I believe it is equally important to experience how a church manages its guest that are late, not just on time (or early). Hence, I decided to arrive 15 minutes late, for this exact purpose (completely unrelated to me being at another church beforehand, and getting lost on the way there). The car park was full, so I was helpfully redirected to the overflow (excellent signs directing me there) in the nearby multi-storey. After finding the right side of the building to exit on, I clambered onto the shuttle bus to take us the two-minute trip down the road back to the main venue.

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I was welcomed as a first time guest on the bus and then directed to the auditorium where Matt Redman was already leading worship.

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North Point wins the prize for the most friendly and engaging parking attendant! I was quickly welcomed and directed to a parking space, then he waved hello and welcomed me when I passed him on my way in, and finally said goodbye when he saw me coming out – very impressive! North Point was certainly the biggest campus I visited. They have two auditoriums facing each other in the single building. On a Sunday morning both sides have their own band and then the speaker is in person on one side and live streamed to the screen in the opposite auditorium.

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I attended the 4pm service which, on reflection, I believe was aimed at regular members of the congregation that had missed the morning service, rather than first-time guests. We only used one of the two auditoriums and I would say we were under half full. The service opened in style with a full-on showpiece from the band on stage (including guitar solo).

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North Point prides itself in creating an environment where non-church people would feel comfortable and they certainly delivered on that front (rock concert style!) For the main talk we had a recording played back from the morning service. I did struggle with this. From the perspective of someone new, there is a certain amount of value you feel when someone is there in person talking to you. It’s the kind of value that you only notice when it’s missing, rather than appreciate it when it is there. It isn’t about having Andy Stanley there, it’s simply about having someone there who values your time enough that they came along in person to talk to you.

 

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