We have visited churches all over the country!

Amish Steil Worship and Plymouth UMC in Plymouth, MA

churchbuzz Church Websites, Welcome First-Time Visitors

Last week there was no blog post because we ended up having to MOVE unexpectedly from our Campground in New Hampshire due to lack of Wifi and LTE coverage. I could barely make a phone call!

For those of you that don’t know – my wife Tyra, our two youngest boys (we have six) and myself have embarked on a year long RV trip to see the United States! We will be working and going to school “online” and experiencing the great history and culture and great lands that God has blessed us with. Each Sunday we will visit a different church and blog about our experience as “first time visitors”.  We will share our experiences to hopefully benefit the church and any church who reads the blog post to learn about positive and negative experiences and how you might address these in your own church.

Anyway during our drive on Sunday we DID have worship! We worshiped for about 70 minutes in our car – “Amish style.” (The Amish worship every other weekend at home with their family.)

The worship was great! Songs were all ones we knew (I used my iTunes playlist and let the kids pick from those songs), and we had some interactive prayer time using the “ACTS” prayer model that the kids remember “Ms. Tortilla” teaching them back home. We read, and I preached on Luke 18:15-17 where Jesus says “Let the Children come to me.”

This has become a favorite verse for many reasons (some of you know why). But today I focused on the fact that I think Jesus understood that we will build the next generation of Christians from our Children and that we need to give them special focus as he did.

It was good worship, and the people were VERY welcoming (LOL), but I will tell you that it was NOT one of our best Sunday experiences. There is just something about worshiping in public (even with total strangers) that cannot be replicated by worshiping on your own. There is power in coming together with like-minded people and joining together to pray and sing. Community is important!

Sorry, I forgot to take pictures at our worship service! 🙂


Anyway… we are now in the Boston Massachusetts area! Actually we are currently staying at the beautiful PINEWOOD campground in Plymouth, MA. So much history here!

So in order to pick a church this morning, I decided I would jump on my phone and look for a church with a really good website that we could visit.

During the week I had seen one United Methodist Church called Plymouth UMC near us, and so I had that one in the back of my mind hoping they would have a great website.

Well, when I started my search, I did see Plymouth UMC pop up, so I checked it out. Ouch, on my phone, their “mobile site” was pretty terrible. The opening screen didn’t tell me anything about when or where services were, no welcome messaging, etc. Ok, so I moved on.

I looked at the 2 other Methodist Churches in town. One didn’t have a website. The other was also pretty bad.

Then I said, let me try and find ANY church website that promises things like:

  • Meaningful worship
  • Welcoming people
  • Great “community”

I searched for 30 minutes and was utterly disappointed. There was no such church.

Is the CHURCH becoming irrelevant because people don’t see the value in having a faith relationship? Or is it because WE as a Church don’t see the value in our faith relationship enough to communicate it in every way possible! I mean, between websites, social media and emails we have more opportunities to reach people in meaningful ways and to tell the story of God’s grace than ever before in History. But Church, we are NOT investing the time, effort and money in this area properly!

Sorry. Stepping down off the soap box now. 🙂

So even though the Plymouth United Methodist Church website gave us no indication we would be welcomed or have good worship or find a sense of Community, we visited anyway.


Walking into Worship at Plymouth UMC

Walking into Worship!

We went to the Contemporary service, and we were nearly trampled (in a good way) as we walked through the doors with people welcoming us. Pastor Stan introduced himself and at least two or three others.

Very nice. We were WELCOMED, and we hadn’t even sat down yet 🙂

Getting ready for worship. Loved the cloth covered pews!

Getting ready for worship. Loved the cloth covered pews!

We had at least three or four more instances of people welcoming us. Pastor Stan even stopped the service half way through to recognize those who were visiting, and a nice woman was ready to hand us and the other two families that were visiting a nice little welcome gift!

All they had us do was raise our hand as the welcoming lady walked by so there was no embarrassment or anything. VERY smart way to do this! Now the whole congregation sees us and can come greet us later. And they did. 🙂

Part of the first time visitor gift we received

Part of the first-time visitor gift we received


The one thing I did miss at this church was the “passing the peace” or “welcome your neighbor time.” I think that is very powerful as it gets people talking to each other. I think they could have cut out one of the five opening songs to fit that in.

WORSHIP was great. Great songs led by a good worship band. I loved all the songs at the beginning, but my wife and kids thought it was too many. I think three or four songs to open worship is good. Also, we noticed all the songs were the same tempo. All very worshipful songs. It might have been better to start with one or two high-energy songs and THEN go into “This Is the Air I Breathe” and “Worthy is the Lamb Who was Slain, Holy Holy is He” (loved these two).

Our family (including the nine and ten year old) liked the Pastor’s sermon. There was even a sheet to take notes. I really like that! Pastor needs to make sure he encourages people to find the sheet when he begins preaching. 🙂

Sermon notes! They displayed most of the answers on the sermon slides

Sermon notes! They displayed most of the answers on the sermon slides


Children’s Message!

One huge thing we noticed was that it was Communion Sunday, but Communion only happened at the earlier service. VERY ODD! I didn’t have a chance to ask about this. Overall, the order of worship worked for me. (Not sure this is 100%, but it’s close).

  1. Opening praise songs
  2. Kids’ Time
  3. Welcome First-Time Guests
  4. Announcements
  5. Church Praises
  6. Church Prayer Petitions
  7. Pastor reads scripture
  8. Pastor preaches

Did you notice the big RELATIONSHIP builders (#5 and #6)? The congregation was asked to offer their praises and then their petitions! And they did! This is powerful and builds community. Loved this.

The biggest problem: They are keeping this great church experience to themselves!

They need a website that demonstrates the great Welcome, Worship and Belonging you can find at this church!

This trip has inspired me to begin a new church website template design that does an even better job of doing this. Our websites already have all this, but I think we can do better!

I also think a great Welcome Video will tell this story much better, and so I am working on a template you can use to create such a video for your church website.

Well, that is it for this week except to mention that if your church is interested in creating a great website, we are right here announcing a special discount off our setup fees for this fall. You can go here to get a coupon.