If you’re like most people, the first place you go when visiting a new website is the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). We love it when programmers add these nuggets of insight about their site. It’s as if they’re saying, “Hey friend, you probably don’t know much about who we are, but that’s OK! We expect you to have questions. We’re ready for them!”
This kind of virtual hospitality sets websites apart in the digital realm. However, in the real world where we talk to people face-to-face, proactive hospitality is harder to find. This begs the question, “What about the church body?” Are we as eager as websites are to lay out the red carpet for our guests? Sure, our church members can tell visitors where the bathrooms are, but are potty breaks what’s really driving people through our doors? If not, perhaps we need to ready deeper answers for the more personal questions our guests bring.
But what are these questions, and how do we prepare for them? Have each church form a First-Time Visitor Interrogation Committee? No, there’s a much easier way to get this valuable insight. And it starts with a trip to your local Christian bookstore.
An Interdenominational Hub for the Church
I’ve spent a decade and a half engaging people on the frontlines of Christian retail and have long said that people don’t actually come into bookstores for the sake of buying books. Instead, they’re looking for something deeper. They’re looking for answers. When people walk into a Christian bookstore, they usually have a spiritual question or two they’re wrestling with. And oddly enough, when put in front of an associate who has a nametag and two ears, they’re eager to drop the congenialities and get honest about what’s really on their minds.
There are few places in your local community with more opportunities to talk with those flirting with the idea of church than the Christian bookstore in your town. As such, there’s more outreach in retail than you’d think. I asked some of the long-standing managers of the chain I work for, “What are the top 10 questions you get from people who are dabbling with the idea of church?” Here’s what they said:
- I don’t like reading the Bible. Do you have something that can help me?
- Do you have books about healing?
- I’m looking for something for a friend who’s hurting.
- Do you know of a tool to help us have family devotions?
- What do you have that will teach me to share my faith?
- My marriage is falling apart. What book should I read to help us?
- I need something for someone who is struggling with their faith.
- My husband needs a Bible that will teach him truth from a man’s perspective.
- I need something to help me understand end-time prophecy.
- My kids are out of control. What do you have that can help me?
Are you asked these questions? Are your congregants? Tomorrow, in part two of this post, I will provide four distinct ways you can move from these ten questions to meaningful gospel conversations.